Why Aren’t People Getting Things Done?

March 23, 2015

why aren't people getting things done

Consider the story of “Nathan,” a senior leader at a Fortune 500 company. Everybody loves him. But he isn’t getting things done… or not enough of the “right” things, anyway. His calendar is pretty organized, and people like working for him. What should he do? Nathan agreed to complete a new multi-rater assessment, asking a dozen of his peers, direct reports, and other stakeholders to weigh in on qualities that research shows are essential to align, inspire, and drive results. The Bates Executive Presence Index (a.k.a. Bates ExPI) results found good news as well as a few surprises that explained a lot.

Good news:

  • People said Nathan was high on Authenticity; they want to work for him because he is “real” and “straight” with them.
  • They trust him and judge him to be high on Integrity; he’s the kind of guy who keeps his promises and does the right thing.
  • And they want to be on his team; he’s a Visionary leader with a lot of Confidence, inspiring and decisive.


  • People are confused about what to do when they leave Nathan’s meetings, as he doesn’t provide clear direction; he scores low on Intentionality.
  • He invites so many people to his meetings that Inclusiveness is what you might call an “over-strength”; so many people have to be brought up to date that meetings aren’t productive.
  • Finally, people can’t get on his calendar because he’s so busy trying to include everybody all the time; he has low scores on Interactivity.

What to Do When You Aren’t Getting Things Done

Given all he has going for him as a leader, it’s worth it for Nathan to take the time to address these gaps. Those high scores in the area of Character and Substance aren’t going to take him where he wants to go if he can’t address the Style dimension—those iterative, dialogical ways leaders get work done through others and maintain momentum. He’s going to have to learn to do things differently to lead this organization or get promoted to the next level. In leadership, our philosophy is “communication is action.”

Here are four tips for leaders like Nathan to get things done:

  • Learn how others perceive your leadership style: Good intentions aren’t enough. A multi-rater assessment such as the ExPI measures the gap between a leader’s intentions and stakeholders’ perceptions. You won’t know what to do until you have specific feedback.
  • Focus on the three “I’s” of Executive Presence as defined by a science-based model: Intentionality, Inclusiveness, and Interactivity are often missing ingredients for creative, visionary leaders. Understanding these facets is critical to getting things done.
  • Sometimes the problem is a strength is overused: Some leaders over-rely on qualities like Inclusiveness, slowing them down. A good leader is inclusive but also knows who to invite to what to keep things moving forward.
  • Make thoughtful choices that demonstrate good leadership communication: Maybe you don’t need to call another meeting: Perhaps you need timed agendas; maybe you invite more or fewer people; it could be that you need to set aside time at the end of each meeting to clarify accountabilities, deadlines, and measures of success. Look at your practices and be thoughtful of how, when, and why to communicate to get results.

By building awareness of how things are really going and being willing to try new approaches—even if they aren’t the comfortable “go-to” ways of doing things—a leader can dramatically improve productivity and efficiency to get more done.

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Sometimes your team needs inspiration to get things done. Learn how to lead and inspire them to great performance with these AMA resources and seminars.

About The Author

Suzanne Bates is CEO and founder of Bates, a global coaching and consulting firm that helps leaders influence the world. She advises the CEOs and top executives of international companies on driving business strategy through communicative leadership and executive presence. Suzanne is the author of the bestselling business books Speak Like a CEO, Motivate Like a CEO, and Discover Your CEO Brand (McGraw-Hill) and writes a popular leadership column, Thoughts for Tuesday ( Follow her on Twitter @CEOCOACHBATES Scott Weighart is Director of Learning and Development at Bates. Scott creates innovative tools and content to assist the firm’s clients as they work toward mastering powerful communication and leadership skills.

One Comment »

  1. avatar

    Fantastic article ,Suzanne ! Thks for sharing these truly valuable thoughts . Roberto

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