October 21, 2021

The secret of high-performing teams: The 4 disciplines of execution

What does it take to successfully execute ideas with your team over and over again? Although there are many viable answers to this, there is one concept that has the potential to transform the way your team executes indefinitely: the 4 disciplines of execution. Jim Huling and Sean Covey have written a book on these disciplines and we want to share with you the essence that we gathered from it. We hope you find it helpful!

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. — Henry Ford

Discipline 1: Focus on the wildly important

A big danger to any form of progress is spreading yourself too thin on too many fronts. You are running at risk of being a jack of all trades and not moving any project forward in a meaningful way. This idea goes hand in hand with the notion of deep work. We humans are not meant to multi-task and need a significant amount of time to get in the zone. By eliminating distractions and solely focusing on what truly matters, you can move forward much quicker. Hence, focus your and your team’s energy on 1–2 keystone goals that have a big impact on your work.

Another obstacle to be aware of are lesser goals. If you end up focusing on goals that are not as meaningful to the thing you are trying to accomplish, you might end up scoring much lower than you could’ve if you would have set an appropriate goal. In other words, you must pick goals that are hard to reach and urge you to go beyond your current capabilities. Only then you will be able to make significant progress towards the goals that matter.

Discipline 2: Act on lead measures

There are two different kinds of measures when it comes to tracking progress: Lag and lead measures.

Lag measures are indicators that ultimately are out of your control.

Even though measures like revenue or sales quota seem to be controllable by you, they in fact are subject to a degree of uncertainty. You simply cannot accurately predict how much revenue you will generate by a given action. These measure lag behind the actions taken on a daily basis.

Lead measures are indicators that are in your control.

In contrast, lead measures are measures that you have full control over. This means they are measures that are directly influenced by your behavior. Examples are the number of phone calls you make in a day or the number of blog posts you publish. Such measures transparently and explicitly indicate how much you are accomplishing.

Focusing on lead measures allows you to establish clear expectations within your team to stimulate positive outcomes.

Discipline 3: Keep a record

To motivate your team to reach goals, everyone needs to be aware of the progress you have made. You need to share the progress in the form of a compelling scoreboard with your team. Ultimately, this has favorable effects on your team’s motivation as there is a clear scoreboard and direction they can follow.

When implementing scoreboards, it’s crucial to keep it as simple as possible while ensuring every member of your team understands what the numbers mean and how they play a crucial role in influencing these numbers.

Discipline 4: Create a cadence of accountability

The first three disciplines essentially provide the foundation for the fourth one: Accountability. After understanding what to focus on, clarifying what your team can control to achieve that goal, and keeping a record through a shared scoreboard, it is time for you to hold your team accountable for that commitment.

Accountability is what gets people to do what they’re expected of. Just think back of the times where you worked on a group project in University and your team relied on you to finish a presentation. You did whatever was necessary to finish that task in time. Why? Because your group hold you accountable to it.

An example to promote accountability is to have weekly meetings where you and your team review your wildly important goals while seeing which progress has been made. The key for this to work is to do this on a consistent schedule so it becomes an integral part of your team’s work mode. By this, your team is held accountable and you will foster execution on a much larger level.


The four disciplines of execution provide any team leader with the needed framework to set up their team for success. By focusing on a few, selected goals that are wildly important to the team’s success you ensure everyone prioritizes fiercely. Next, establishing lead measures everyone can act on help in guiding your team’s behavior. Further, it’s crucial to keep a record and share the progress transparently within the team. Finally, holding your team accountable on a consistent schedule is what brings everything to life.

However, when you implement the four disciplines of execution, it’s paramount to the success to jointly develop the required habits. You cannot force such a framework into the existing team culture. That’s why you need to seek the dialogue with your team, and make that change happen. Together.

Louis Morgner

Louis is co-founder and managing director at wespond. Tech enthusiast & product person.