Approach Your Action Thoughtfully

July 10, 2012 by  Filed under: Management 

How many times have you heard the saying, “it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it”? I’m assuming you’ve heard it more than a handful of times. It’s true. And it’s the point behind this article.

Sometimes, when we hear it – we think it’s the simpler alternative – so we remain a supporter of this statement. Other times, when we’re just trying to get the job done, we realize… wait a second, I think I care more about getting it done than worrying about how to do it. I’ve wrestled with why I believe this quote. And there is one main reason: the journey determines the experience of the destination. Think about it. The harder the trek, the more celebratory the arrival. The easier the venture, the more likely the arrival is to be taken for granted. Now, I’m not just talking about the adventure of aiming and achieving our dreams – I’m talking about the process and procedure of leading and managing others. How we do something almost always overrides what we do. In fact, one of my favorite quotes on this subject is by Maya Angelou, and she said, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you think that’s overestimating the effect of our approach, think again, as you reflect on almost every personal and professional experience from infancy to adulthood.

If you’re hungry and your parents throw a sandwich at you – does it really matter that they tried to feed you? Probably not, their approach was rude, almost ruthless. If you’ve just made the biggest mistake of your professional life – does it matter that your boss took the blame, if in private, she shouted at you for being so stupid? Obviously not; sure, your reputation is saved, but your confidence is crushed.

It’s simple – how you do something overrides what you do. This is great news, if you want it to be. This means that if you have tough feedback to deliver, an employee you need to fire, bad reports you must bring back to your team, etc… your method could make a bigger difference than the sting of your message. So, now that you know that, how do you prioritize the process?

1. Pay attention to your presence. A calm and comforting demeanor does wonders.

2. Carefully choose your communication. The vocabulary and language you use can completely alter how one accepts your message.

3. Leave time for listening. Once you say and do what you need to say and do, give your listener(s) time to ask further questions.

4. Revisit the topic. Another time, another day, ask your original audience (whether that’s one or more people) how they have processed whatever took place.

With all of that being said, I still believe what you do matters – so I wouldn’t suggest you start skimping on your actions. Just pay attention to your approach. Think of it like this – if you have all of the right intentions to stop at that stoplight, but forget to approach it cautiously and slowly, you’ll never be able to stop if you don’t take the right precautions. But as you crash, you will quickly realize you should have done more to avoid this unfortunate, completely preventable incident.

Looking for more insights from Doug? Check out his blog at

Doug C. Watsabaugh, senior partner at WCW Partners, understands how to meet your unique performance challenges. With more than 20 years of experience, WCW Partners is a performance-improvement company that helps businesses revitalize their results and achieve record-breaking performance.

If you are looking to excel in sales, service or leadership, let Doug develop the capability in you!

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