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The Backflip Theory: Execution is More Than Just Knowledge

Posted on Categories Culture/Employee Engagement, Savage ThinkingTags

When I speak to companies about connecting with their purpose and creating compelling mission and vision statements and acting on it, I usually get a lot of nods.

Everyone in the audience is with me. Nothing I’m saying startles or offends them. We all know the basics about what (we think) these corporate messages are.

It’s about halfway through this speech that I tell them I know how to do a backflip. They perk up; this is different.

I used to be a gymnast; I know everything there is to know about the mechanics of doing a backflip. I know that your hips and your head are the heaviest points on your body, so they will serve as counterweights as you spin. The key is to curl into a tight ball to get turning fast enough, and once I get my hips past vertical, gravity will bring me back down.

I begin to stretch on the stage, prepping for my big flip. ‰”I‰’ll only do this once, so if you‰’re in the back and can‰’t see, you might want to stand up,‰” I say. ‰”Also, I‰’d appreciate it if someone would keep their thumb on 911.” The audience grows noticeably nervous.

I crouch; the audience holds its breath. I leap into the air ‰- I do not do a backflip. With obvious relief, the people in the room laugh.

Here‰’s the problem, I tell them. I know how to do a backflip. But to actually do a backflip would require study and training. It would require hours and hours of attempts and failure and injuries and frustration. Doing a backflip is a huge commitment.

Delivering on a compelling corporate purpose, mission and vision is the same way. You know how to do it. You‰’ve read books and been to seminars and brainstormed and strategized. But to actually do it requires a full commitment from leadership. Execution means every employee, top down, is aligned with that mission and vision and working to make it happen. It means having an unwavering belief that it‰’s the best direction the company could go. It requires a huge investment of time, money and sweat.

And you‰’re probably going to fail a few times before you succeed. Don‰’t be surprised if you fall on your head and your butt and your hands before you land on your feet.

The top people in your company know how to do a backflip. But are you committing to the execution? Ultimately, if you want to be a successful, purposeful company, you’re going to have to take your feet off the ground, tuck, and land it.

Avatar photoWith a passion for helping others discover “why” and “what for,” Jackie Dryden leads companies to uncover and align with their purpose. But don’t be fooled. Her purpose development strategy packs a punch and will shake the core of your foundation. Serving as the Chief Purpose Architect at Savage, Jackie thrives on creating design and communications strategy to support corporate purpose. She is co-author of "Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose" available at


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