Results Require Discipline

“Execution beats luck
Consistency beats intensity
Curiosity beats smart
Kind beats clever
Together beats alone”

Shane Parrish


This is the third in the series of Marshall Goldsmith’s assessment of who would be coachable.

As a review, here are the three qualifications for the best results in order to coach a person or a group as defined by Marshall Goldsmith.  The first two have already been posted on ‘New Rules” at

  1. Courage – ruthless honesty in confronting reality
  2. Humility – being willing to listen to others and learn from and with them
  3. Discipline – follow-through. Making sure there is implementation

The third question a coach might ask to assess prior to accepting a coaching relationship is ‘will this person or group have the discipline to follow through and implement agreed-upon plans?’

If follow-through is an issue, administrative supervision and evaluation may be necessary.

Agreements only have value if we see follow-through. Without follow-through we never know whether or not the intervention, program, or procedures will work.  Once there is follow-through, we can discuss results and make adaptations.  If there is no follow-through, we can’t assess success or failure.

As Bossidy and Charan (2002) state, “You cannot have an execution culture without robust dialogue – one that brings reality to the surface through openness, candor, and informality.  Robust dialogue makes an organization effective in gathering information, understanding the information, and reshaping it to produce decisions.  It fosters creativity – most innovations and inventions are incubated through robust dialogue.”

There is another possibility to consider.  The Dip.  I don’t mean a person.  Seth Godin (2007) wrote a book called The Dip.  The quick lesson is when we try anything new, we become less skilled.  Ever take a golf or tennis lesson?  Have you taken a Spanish lesson or piano lesson?  How skilled are you after the lesson?  We tend to dip in our initial performance until we adapt to our repertoire. Sometimes we quit, not following through, too quickly before we see results.

“I never decide if an idea is good or bad until I tried it.”

Rick Rubin

Record Producer

To really understand getting better, I suggest reading the book Peak by K. Anders Ericsson (2016).  Ericsson has since passed but his work is foundational about ‘deliberate practice.’ The book summary is posted  at

Think about a time when a new curriculum was brought into a school or district.  How good were you at first?  Experienced teachers played with the new way to teach, adjusted, and probably got better results eventually.  It takes a while to get good at something. At the same time intelligence is knowing when to quit.  Godin says, STRATEGIC QUITTING is the secret of successful organizations. Reactive quitting and serial quitting are the bane of those that strive (and fail) to get what they want.”

Godin goes on to say, “Quitters never win and winners never quit”  is Bad Advice.

Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.” This is why discipline to follow through first, then make a decision, based on data and results, whether or not to continue.


  1. You run out of time (and quit)
  2. You run out of money (and quit)
  3. You get scared (and quit)
  4. You’re not serious about it (and quit)
  5. You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre (and quit)
  6. You focus on the short term instead of the long (and quit when the short term gets too hard)
  7. You pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don’t have the talent)

By “you” I mean your team, your company, or just plain you.

Ernest Hemingway cautioned us to “Never mistake motion for action.” In many organizations people are busy.  I hear this all the time, “I don’t have time.”  There is an old adage, ‘I don’t have time to do it right but I have time to do it over.’  The question becomes, ‘what are people busy doing?’  Are they doing the right things or unproductive things.

We learn about the Pareto Principle from Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian civil engineer.  The Pareto Principle offers the 80/20 rule.  The rule says that 20% of your activities produce 80% of the results.   Of course that also means that 80% of your activities produce only 20% of your results. If people are saying they have too much to do, guide them by asking a few questions:

  1. What are the activities that are producing most of the desired results?
  2. What are the activities that don’t add much value to our positive results?
  3. What can you stop doing that has limited impact so you can spend more time on actions that  increase  your results?

The reason execution fosters creativity is because when we follow through, we find out whether or not it works.  If it works, keep doing it.  If it doesn’t, admit it and change the procedure. We need the communications in the organization to have candor.  That is why courage to have conversations around the reality are so important. That is why we need humility to keep creating options when something doesn’t work.

I have heard the quote attributed to Nelson Mandela, and I paraphrase “Everything is impossible before it’s inevitable.”  There are many schools and businesses struggling because of COVID and other barriers.  At the same time there are schools that are being more successful even with these new barriers.  What are they doing differently? Find Out.  Technology allows us to search for ideas quickly.

“Leadership is Action, Not Position”

Donald H. McGannon

Past President of the National Urban League


Bossidy, Larry, and Charan, Ram. (2002). Execution:  The Discipline of Getting Things Done.

New York: Crown Business.

Ericsson, K. Anders & Pool, Robert. (2016). Peak: Secrets from the New Science of

            Expertise.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Godin, Seth. (2007). The Dip. New York: Penguin Books



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