Back To All Stories

How execution reduces burnout by doing work that matters

Chris McChesney's leadership masterclass: Creating a High-Stakes Winnable Game


Leaders are hearing of high levels of team burnout during the pandemic.

Burnout most often stems from a feeling of futility, says Chris McChesney, author of 4DX- The Four Disciplines of Execution.

“It’s been a long time since people felt like they were winning at anything,” he told the Creating a High-Stakes Winnable Game masterclass.

Engagement from winning 

What motivates employees was studied decades ago in Frederick Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory (sometimes known as Herzberg's Two Factor Theory). Chris McChesney says it can be condensed to:  

·       Am I winning?

·       Does it matter?

He cites author of Three Signs of a Miserable Job Patrick Lencioni, who says three factors make people unhappy:

·       Anonymyity (people feel their leaders don’t know or care what they are doing);

·       Irrelevance (when they don’t understand how their job makes a difference);

·       Immeasurement (when someone cannot measure or assess for themselves the contribution they are making.)

Thus, McChesney’s Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) framework, which is a roadmap for making progress in meaningful work.

Execution traps

At our earlier Close the Execution Gap Masterclass, the Global Practice Leader for FranklinCovey had warned of common execution traps:

The urgency trap

·       Doing those urgent tasks over important (less urgent) ones.

·       61% of delegates said in our poll this was their problem area.

Read our case study of one company's year of mayhem.

The complexity trap

·       Complex stuff sends people back to their day job.

·       20% of delegates said this was their problem area.

The futility trap

·      “It won’t work” – leading to compliant behaviour at low levels, apathy or cynicism at higher levels.

·       19% named futility as the source of their execution problem.

How do we clear the traps?

Break down your big bucket of strategy/plan into 3 smaller buckets:

1.   Stroke of the pen tasks: Leadership authority stuff like new hires, capital expenditure, ad campaigns.

2.     Whirlwind – Normal work process (financial, ops, customer service)

3.     Breakthrough – Things that aren’t getting done in 1 or 2 that require a change in behaviour.

Choose the breakthrough and ask yourself/executive team:

·       What is your breakthrough result? How do you measure that?

·       Who needs to do what differently or more consistently?

·       What percentage of people model the behaviour? (Also, what % of those who are “not yets”?) 

There are 4 proven actions to lift team productivity. Think of them as disciplines for creating a breakthrough:

  1. Focus
  2. Leverage
  3. Engagement
  4. Accountability

Discipline 1 - Focus

We think strategic is going big, but strategic is going small. Instead of 20 goals, think of one.

  • What’s ONE thing that’s important but is not going to happen on its own?
  • That’s a Wildly Important Goal (W.I.G.). Customer service, or improvement in quality, increasing new accounts, reduction in client turnover – these are all good WIGs. High value targets which the organisation isn’t going to hit without focus.

W.I.G. examples:

·       Increase New Customer Revenue Growth from 14% to 30% by December 31.

·       Reduce unsafe incident reports from 15 per month to 0 p.m. by December 31.

Each team then has a sub-goal, a Team Wildly Important Goal.

Team W.I.G. examples: 

·       Decrease customer returns from 5% to 1.5% by Dec 31

·       Reduce lifting injuries from 3 p.m. to 0 p.m. by December 31.

Fun fact: The more goals you have, the less chance of achieving them

A Franklin Covey study of 4000 organisations found that over the course of a year:

·       a team with 2-3 goals achieves 2-3 of them with excellence.

·       a team with 4-10 goals achieves 1-2.

·       a team with 11-20 goals achieves zero.

Discipline 2 – Leverage/Act on the Lead Measures

A Lead measure is what leads to a result. “If we consistently did this, we would get the result.” It is something we can influence.

If you’re trying to lose weight:

·       The number on the scales in the LAG measure. 

·       Diet and exercise is the LEAD measure. These are within my influence.

Think of a rock and a lever. Exerting pressure on the lever (lead measure) moves the rock (lag measure).

Brainstorm possible lead measures…..

1.     Something we know how to do. We don’t do it because of the whirlwind.

2.     Something we do (but not well enough). We do it but with a low-end result.

3.     Something new. Best practices outside the team, creative ideas. 

If your lag measure is Increase number of new accounts your lead measures might be the number of executive presentations.

If your lag measure is Reduced accidents – your lead measure could be compliance to safety standards.

If your lag measure is Reduce plant shutdowns – your lead measure could be preventative maintenance.

Discipline 3Engagement. Keep a compelling scoreboard.

People play differently when they are keeping score. It's like throwing the GAME ON switch, says Chris.


(Image: Wyatt Determan, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Compelling scoreboards: 

·       Are simple and highly visible.

·       Have the right lead and lag measures.

·       Show immediate results.

Discipline 4 - Create a Cadence of Accountability

Good execution comes from putting energy against non-urgent activities. Holding each other to account helps to focus this energy.

Team members ask:

·       What are the 1 or 2 most important things I can do this week to impact the lead measure?

Using the individual weight loss example it might be find an online gym class & buy ingredients for a healthy meal.

Hold a weekly WIG meeting to report on last week’s commitments ("Did you research online classes?"), review and update scoreboard, and make commitments for next week.

Hotel case study

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Centre in the U.S. picked for their W.I.G. “Customer Satisfaction/Service.”

It had a goal of improving guest satisfaction from 42% to 55% by the end of the year. (They had never been higher than a 44%).

With 75 teams, they decided to put energy only into "battle-level" W.I.Gs:

  • Problem resolution
  • Arrival Experience
  • Food and Beverage Quality.

Looking just at Arrival Experience, goals at team level were:

  • Housekeeping: Room availability 65% to 90%
  • Bell Service: Luggage Delivery Time from 106 minutes to 20 minutes
  • Front desk: Arrival check-in from 12 minutes to 6 minutes.

Looking just at Luggage Delivery, goals became:

  • Lead measure #1: "We want to match tags to room keys 95% of the time (to reduce time wasted by lost bags);
  • Lead measure #2: Accompany guests with bags to room 80% of the time (to reduce separation from bags).

Each team met weekly.

Weekly WIG meeting:

1.     Report on last week’s commitments

2.     Review and update the scoreboard

3.     Make commitments for next week 

Each Opreyland team member partcipating in the 4DX Customer Service "game" picked one or two things they did in addition to what they HAD to do (ie. train the morning crew on bag tag process, or revise peak time staffing for large tour group expected on Friday).

Result: Customer satisfaction moved to 61%! Remember, they had never been higher than a 44%!


As Chris McChesney says, this past year has thrown up more complexity than ever.

We are worried about our jobs, our kids, our parents, our health.

But execution has the ability to boost morale and prevent burnout.

It's soul crushing not to achieve stuff. Getting things done that matter is satisfying.

The execution expert says gamifying your biggest execution challenges “gets people caring about things you never thought they would care about.”

And, while that's not going to solve every problem right now, it's sure going to help.



Year round we host live, virtual events with globally-recognised speakers who understand what it takes to become a great leader. Check out what leadership experts have taught our Leadership Pass delegates about team building, finding your areas of working geniusbuilding trust, and becoming a future-ready leader 

 If you'd like to increase your professional and personal development by learning from the best, why not consider becoming a Leadership Pass Holder with Growth Faculty? Unlimited access to 40 live virtual masterclasses and Global Headliner virtual events - PLUS year-round leadership content at On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries. Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. Access $7500+ value for just $398 AUD. See who's up next.


Keep Informed
Stay Inspired


© 2022 The Growth Faculty

Where Brilliant Ideas Inspire Leadership

Privacy Policy    Terms of Service