A Vote for Execution

Posted on March 28, 2017 by Robert Ringer


A quote that ranks right up there with the best of Voltaire and Montaigne is the late Coach John McKay’s famous response when a reporter asked him, after another Tampa Bay Buccaneer loss, what he thought of his team’s execution.  Said McKay, with a straight face, “I think it’s a good idea.”

Of course, when McKay spoke those now-famous words, his team was in the midst of the longest losing streak in NFL history — twenty-six games!  I’ve never suffered through twenty-six straight losses at anything, but I must admit that I have long favored execution for those who fail to execute.

Why would a gentle soul like me be so harsh when it comes to people who fail to execute?  Call it a pet peeve … or a fetish … or just a lack of tolerance.  All I know is that for anyone who actually cares about his/her work, the most unpleasant aspect of daily business is dealing with people who act as though they’re sleepwalking.

Execution involves three distinct areas:

  • Sense of urgency
  • Attention to detail
  • Follow-through


Sense of Urgency

One of the signs of a true entrepreneur is an ever-present sense of urgency.  A lot of people take umbrage with this, because it gets in the way of their evening sitcoms and weekend barbeques.  People who want things done sooner rather than later irritate them no end.

Nothing bugs me more than the use of the future tense when it comes to executing.  It seems as though everyone is always going to do something.  Whatever happened to the present tense?  Or, even better, the past tense?

Why is sooner rather than later so important?  Because every one of us has to come to grips with an irreplaceable, finite commodity:  time.  The entrepreneurial mind gets it; most others don’t.

I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve closed, how many successful ads I’ve run, how many projects that made it through the open window because I took action one month sooner, one week sooner, or one day sooner.  Even an hour — sometimes a minute — sooner can be the difference between success and failure.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen hundreds of deals and projects go up in smoke because one or more people involved had no sense of urgency.  I like to refer to it as the Fiddle Theory:  The longer you fiddle around with a deal, the greater the odds that it will never close.

As the Republicans just discovered, time is your enemy when it comes to closing deals, mainly because circumstances are constantly changing.


Attention to Detail

It’s very frustrating to care deeply about accuracy when those around you don’t.  Accuracy doesn’t happen by accident.  It’s a direct result of caring enough to carefully check your work … then double-check it … and, if necessary, triple-check it … and continue to check it until it’s right.

People who can’t comprehend double- and triple-checking often get in a huff when they are called to task on something that is incorrect.  Their attitude, often verbalized with anger, is: “How many times do I have to do this ! %?*!# thing?”  The answer, of course, is:  “Until you get it right!”  The objective is not to finish the project.  The objective is to finish the project correctly and on time.

Never use the excuse that you were too tired or, worse, too busy to check your work.  My considerable experience has taught me that no one has a great deal of interest in how tired or how busy I am.  What they are interested in is my giving them what I promised, giving it to them correctly, and giving it to them on time.  In motivational circles, it’s called:  Whatever it takes!



Follow-through means seeing things through to completion and doing so on time.  Not near to completion — completion.  Clearly, most people don’t seem to know the difference between the two.

One interesting thing I’ve discovered about people who fail to execute is that all too often, when someone tells me, “I’ve taken care of that,” what he really means is that he told someone else to take care of it.  I’ve seen days, sometimes even weeks, lost because people don’t understand that a key component of delegation is to have a system for checking back to see if their delegation instructions have been properly carried out.

There’s nothing worse than a person who misstates the facts by proclaiming that something is done, then blames it on the person to whom he delegated the project when it turns out it isn’t.  No one wants to hear about someone’s delegation problems.  If the person with whom you’re dealing delegates the matter to someone else, that someone else is answerable to him.  He, however, is answerable to you.

That said, what I like most about execution is that it’s not a natural talent.  You have it entirely within your power to become good at it.  It’s pretty much just a matter of commitment and determination than anything else.

If your goals are high, becoming a master at execution is not an option; it’s a necessity.  But be forewarned that it can lead to a very lonely existence, because most people in modern-day America are in no hurry — unless, of course, it involves sporting events and other forms of entertainment.

On that note, allow me to close with another quote from John McKay with which I wholeheartedly agree:  “You don’t beat people with surprises, but with execution.”

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

30 responses to “A Vote for Execution”

  1. Rick G says:

    Well stated!

  2. Jim Hallett says:

    Oh, how well I remember the John McKay quote, and it made me chuckle once again. After all those successful years at USC, he was totally unprepared for the "Yuckaneers" and their horrid execution. It is clear why you have been very successful in your life. You take FULL responsibility for honoring your word and taking any task to full and accurate completion. That way, failure does not throw you a curve, as you know how to improve and make things right and or better. Politics would be TOTAL frustration for you, since these goons know nothing about excellence, morality, or personal responsibility. The RyanCare fiasco was just the latest example. I spent many years in mgmt. positions, and you are so correct in pointing out that ultimately, a manager is always responsible, regardless of who he delegates to. I learned that the hard way. Thanks for the good read, and for revisiting a great chuckle with the opening J. McKay quote.

  3. Marte says:

    A phrase that irks me to no end is "I didn't get a chance to…" when what the speaker meant was "I didn't take time to…" or "I didn't bother to…"

    It's especially annoying when the task might have taken ten minutes – turn off the darn TV and just do it!

  4. Joe Lang says:

    Your man, President Trump, should have read this piece before he became involved with the healthcare debacle. He did have a sense of urgency, wanting to get something passed so that he could proclaim that he had led the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare. He showed no attention to detail, in fact seemed disinterested in the details concerning the bill. His follow-through was weak and ineffective, consisting mostly of threats.

    When it was all over, he passed the blame in several directions, to the Democrats, to Paul Ryan and to the Freedom Caucus, while ignoring that his lackadaisical involvement in the process by allowing the corrupt GOP leadership carry his water in drafting the bill. He tried selling an imperfect product that he did not even seem to understand, and that was an insult to the people who elected him and the GOP to seriously address the mess that is Obamacare.

    • texas wolfie says:

      The man delegated this task to people who knew far more than him what needed to be done. They failed him. What pray tell ,would you have done, write the damn bill yourself?

      • Joe Lang says:

        No, but I would have thought that a competent executive would have at least familiarized himself with the nitty gritty of the issues before publicly taking a stand that ultimately made him, as well as those he relied upon, look foolish.

    • Although I'm a fan of Trump's, he DID screw up on that issue. His promise to get Obamacare repealed played a large part in getting him elected and RyanCare came nowhere close to keeping that promise.

      • Barbara Wells says:

        Correct. I think Trump knew it was lame but he had to go along with Ryan's plan because of his campaign promise to scuttle Obamacare.

    • Barbara Wells says:

      I believe that Trump knew all along that the bill was not quite right. He wanted to let Obamacare implode and then put forth a much better health care plan. He never lets anyone else take the blame for what he sees as his failure.

  5. Mike B says:

    Thanks for this great article. It made me think of W. Clement Stone's "do it now". I had that pasted on the dashboard of my car for years. .

    • Common Sense says:

      When pedestrians walk in front of my car without the right of way, punching the gas pedal (do it now) is a temptation I resist.

      Just joking. But "whatever it takes" and "do it now" are great as the "action" that follows is in a positive vein.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      I had the pleasure of spending an hour or so with Clement Stone when he was still very active. Very nice man.

  6. Peter says:

    Trump should read this. He always has a sense of urgency, but as evidenced with the TrumpCare debacle, he doesn't pay attention to the details. If had even read it, he would have known that it was a piece of crap knockoff of ObamaCare that was doomed for failure. Then he starts pointing his finger at scapegoats rather than working on a plan that would be worthy of his support. Now we have to listen to the lamest excuse of all: "Well, I tried."

    • texas wolfie says:

      Obama did not read the ACA , neither did Nancy Pelosi, nor any of the other stooges who put this turd on the table. In fact, someone who did read it said the American people were "stupid" as I recall, to let this thing become the law of the land. Where was your criticism then?

      • Joe Lang says:

        There is a difference. Obama and the Dems in charge of Obamacare were only concerned with developing a program that would ultimately lead t a one-payer system, that payer being the government. They chose people who shared that goal to draft the legislation. Then they went out and lied about what the effects of the bill would be. I do not know about Peter, but I, along with millions of others in the Tea Party movement worked hard to oppose the Obamacare legislation. There was plenty of criticism then. Our complaint was that the bill was a bad one for the country. We did not even think about whether or not Obama or Pelosi or any of the others who pushed for the bill had read it, we just knew that knowledgable people whom we trusted on our side had read it, and
        determined exactly the kind of garbage that was being forced down our throats.

        • texas wolfie says:

          I concur. Your point is well taken, being as I am a charter member of the The Tea Party of Texas circa 2009. We did speak up.I have the copper coin to prove it. However, being a Trump hater is not helping either of us as well as the country.

          • Joe Lang says:

            I am not a Trump hater, but neither am I a blind supporter. I compliment him when he does things that I consider positive, but am not going to give him, or anyone else, a blank check. I feel that he did not do his homework as regards healthcare, and that causes me concern about how he will become informed about other important issues.

  7. Ellis Baxter says:

    When I re read 'Winning' for the third time; i was in a install business. I employed a person just to show up on time at the customers home on time to the minute.Their job was to do all the necessary prep. for the install… They carried in the vacuum clearer for the clean up after the install .. Respect for folks time and property paid off .. I think i paid $6.95 for 'Winning' ROIC was unreal… Reading the books is worthless unless you use the advice… .

    Waiting on the next book? The Entrepreneur was my 12,500 th book read Soon i will pass 13,000 so I will need a book for that miles stone … My Congressman at the time NEWT use Restoring American Dream to help form the flip of the House … .


  8. Tom says:

    Here's a model example of why I eagerly imbibe the ink that flows from your pen, Robert. Truth pierces, cuts and sets free. Your simple, yet profound fusion philosophy of think, do, be regularly shines a light to my path in this often awkward, confusing world. "Execution…is entirely in your power to get good at." That's the bright reality: excellence is a personal choice. Thank you for continuing to speak with your clear and powerful voice as you show the way.

  9. Reality Seeker says:

    Another worthwhile article by RJR.

    FYI:. At this point in time healthcare is a no-win situation for President Trump. It was better for Trump that the GOP in the House failed to produce a bill to replace Obamacare with Trumpcare…. And make no mistake about it: once The Donald signs a healthcare bill, he OWNS it. ALL of it……… Healthcare is doomed. It's been doomed ever since Milton Friedman warned what was happening back in 1978 when he spoke at the Mayo Clinic:

    I miss Milton…

    There is only one person that I know who is currently telling it like it is on the current state of affairs. His name is Karl Denninger….. Karl articulates with such stunning acumen that I actually believe he's just as brilliant as was Milton.

    I've been a regular reader of the Market Ticker for seven years. And Karl never disappoints…. I'll post a link…. https://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=231941

    There is only one long-term solution for socialist medicine, socialist security, the collectivist public-school-system and the welfare state…. Repeal everything and replace with nothing but the free market…. Andthat won't happen until a complete and total collapse of the Washington Doomsday Machine.

    So what is President Trump to do? Spend, spend, spend and borrow, borrow, borrow. And try and keep the Titanic from sinking. That's the only choice he's got…

    What is an American citizen to do? Make sure you have a lifeboat. Buy gold Buy silver. And have faith….

  10. Common Sense says:

    There's another aspect to this urgency–the expense side of the ledger. Employees are one of the biggest expenses, so if an entrepreneur can motivate one employee (or all of them, preferably) to do the work of two or three, he cuts his costs. I used to work for a company that would do this, and now that company is a client of ours. Still demanding. I not only don't have time to double check, I can't even get done! (I'm hourly). There has been a non-stop addition to my work load. I've been forced with my own initiative to cut tasks.

    But, that doesn't seem to matter to management of our client or the company I work for. Remember, in business the bottom line is MONEY.

  11. Jon says:

    Isn't it interesting that these are the very same folks who believe it is totally unfair that you, RJR, have a much larger income than they have? Then the government tells them they are right to object to the income inequality.

  12. larajf says:

    So few are good at the execution of an idea. I'm guilty as well at times…but I know if I want to be successful, I have to finish what I start and FOCUS (follow one course until successful)

    • Scott theczech says:

      I get overwhelmed sometimes and freeze. I hate that feeling of impasse or facing seemingly immovable barriers.

  13. Bill Grover says:

    Guilty as charged, your Honor! In the past, I have procrastinated to detrimental effects. I've learned my lesson.

  14. Barbara Wells says:

    I sincerely wish that every black person who works in an office or behind the counter would read this article. From my observation, I've observed that most of them follow the laisser faire attitude of "it will eventually get done."

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  16. AcMarket says:

    Fabulous post thanks for sharing with us …