Success in life and work, regardless of how we define success, is all about execution. It doesn’t matter how brilliant an idea is or how much money we can throw at it. There is an endless list of failures in product development, projects, and life experiments where pure genius was at the root of the effort, and it failed anyway.
Usually, a project or product can survive after the first or second failed attempt if one has enough money and time.
The individuals who waiver, build a reputation of failure, and the ones that succeed, become the Executioners every employer is salivating to have on their team. Executioners are paid the big bucks, always have outside job opportunities, earn special privileges, time off, and hopefully a humble confidence that is a joy to work with.
Most of us believe we are an Executioner because we are smart enough to piece together a fairy tale story of our faultless failures and sell it to our friends, loved ones, and superiors. Engineers in California that fall into this category earn about $75-$112k+ a year and end up working on the quiet side of the building.
An Executioner, however, earns up to $250k, plus privileges, career opportunities and negotiate sweet custom tailored compensation packages.
They execute when everyone else waivers. I first experienced this, when I was at Applied Materials, 1998. Semiconductor was booming, a big campus of buildings, 10k employees worldwide, off-site Christmas parties that rivaled a mini Cirque do Soleil and in inside those buildings, rows, and rows of cubicles of people not doing much at all?
Most were content hanging/placing creepy ornaments inside and out of their cubicles like it was a Christmas tree of their eccentricities; bizarre and weird.
Meanwhile, I was neck-deep in leading a new wafer handling tool for the Chemical Etch Division. I was stressed. I was presenting off-site in hotels to the senior execs of this intimidating company. I co-invented a new concentric wafer handling robot and they were flying me to Japan to negotiate million-dollar deals with Yaskawa Corporation all on my own which I should never have been doing at the age of 26 years; it was intense and ridiculous at the same time.
I was doing what I was doing because I was consistently knocking out what was thrown at me, even if it meant I was standing there sweating while being grilled by 40-year industry veterans or Japanese executives who had an answer for everything.
They accepted my sweaty forehead and nervous voice because I was executing.
And then there was Frank Ma, “Senior Mechanical Engineer” and so many others like him. His cubicle was off on one side of the building with the “others”. Seriously. I remember my VP saying, “Yeah, we just move folks that fade away over there, out of the way.” He was a good guy, kind, wandered the cubicles making uncomfortable small talk, and attended meetings to reminds everyone how it was done 5 years ago.
I’m sure he’s content and satisfied with his life. He clearly was absent of ambition and found himself in a company that can afford to keep thousands of employees operating at 10%.
For myself at the time, I was manically finding ways to execute these ridiculous requests thrown on my shoulders and expanding my skill set. At Applied, I had to switch from AutoCAD to Mechanical Desktop, to IBM’s SolidDesigner and then to Solidworks. I knuckled up, learned them all and it allowed me to execute. In 5 weeks I was showing Frank Ma tricks on SolidDesigner and he was already using it for 2 years.
It was exciting because it was like I had been getting my butt kicked in the boxing ring and then I just learned a bunch of new combinations. I couldn’t wait to try them and figure out my new competitive advantage I still get this feeling today when I learn a new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique that resonates with me. Engineering, design, project management, and more are eerily similar.
Expand your skillset to what you need to execute in the moment and in the future. Master your craft.
Track your win rate, attach the dollar signs to it, and reflect. If you aren’t winning consistently, and the numbers don’t add up to more than $10k a month? Be honest with yourself, look in the mirror, and say, “Start Executing, stop blowing it, you are going to be just another Frank Ma.”
Because from an employer perspective, everyone on the team must be executioners. As much as we long for it, the dream team is just a dream. The reality is we have one or two persons per team that truly execute. It’s the famous 80/20 rule where 20% of the people execute. As employers, if we don’t have them, we must find them, we must groom them and we must reward them handsomely and graciously because they are literally diamonds in the rough that make the world go round.
If you execute, everyone notices…and we will pay you to execute for us.
Axiom 1: Attack the tasks at hand in a manner that is proven to execute quickly and effectively.
Here at Parametric, customers order repeat parts all the time. We love those orders because we went through the painful process of proving how to make them already. We can execute quickly and effectively because we know exactly what to do, how to do it, and we even optimized the what and the how.
If you are not on a 3 task winning series and know what to do next with 100% confidence, then you’re treading water instead of swimming to the shore. Leverage a proven process, practice discipline, and don’t deviate from it. I’m guilty of this myself, I try to improve the process and I take short cuts all because I fancy myself smart enough to do it better. And if I execute, then I get that secondary emotional payoff of feeling superior over others. It’s risky and bites me in the butt sometimes. Other times, I circumvent brick walls, major breakthroughs follow and I feel good.
Know your situation and your risks. It’s best to follow the proven process that comes from repeated first-hand experience that illustrated excellent results. Find that person to help you, listen, and then execute.
Axiom 2: Solve problems one variable at a time.
Sometimes the machinists here execute brilliantly, sometimes they fail tragically. The machinists who have a high execution rate are paid higher than the machinist with a low execution rate. The difference between the two is that the high paid executioner changes one variable at a time in their problem solving while the other becomes lost changing multiple variables at once.
I’m a mechanical engineer, not a machinist, but problem-solving is the same. Product development is tough to execute in parallel paths because all the variables are interdependent. Change one variable and it affects 5, 10 sometimes 100s of others depending on the complexity.
Most managers, VPs, and executives refuse to accept these facts, making grave errors in forcing their teams to the brink of a cerebral meltdown by rolling the dice to solve all the variables at once in an unreasonable amount of time.
Axiom 3: Though not obvious, develop effective people skills.
***Executives and VP’s need to be convinced that there is not enough time, that more budget is needed and their own plan is not necessarily wrong, but just wasn’t fueled with all the information to arrive at the same conclusion.
To do that, one must find a way to become graciously disagreeable, not stammer like a child or turn red in frustration. One must learn the art of persuasion using their own first-hand experience as their justification and the ability to not back down, be walked over or bullied. Being able to read body language and voice tone effectively will mitigate misunderstandings.
This crucial skillset, it will empower you to do the most important thing of all.
Acquire more resources to improve your lifestyle; resources in time, money, privileges, and competency.
Remember, track your wins. Attach dollar signs to them and this is your justification for climbing your way to the $250k Executioner’s salary and privileges. Don’t expect it to happen at the company you work for now, you may have to switch teams and maybe industries to gain the big $30-$40k jumps, because that’s when you can truly show us that you are a person who executes, and we are going to pay you so, so much, to do that for us.
If you found this helpful and motivating, please pass it along, we need more executioners in the world!