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How and What

June 8, 2009

Crises often highlight the importance of doing the right things as well as doing things right.  But the shift in emphasis should not distract us as leaders from seeing the importance of doing both things well.

What we do matters.  Our actions provide an important window into our intentions and what we consider important.  Spending our time and effort on something demonstrates commitment.

As leaders, our subordinates look to us as benchmarks in this respect.  But they also pay attention to how we go about planning and doing what we choose to engage.

Earning the trust of others requires them to have confidence in our competence as well as our commitment.  Indeed, how we go about our tasks and how we choose what we spend our time and effort on tells people a lot about our values and expectations.

I recently starting learning to play the guitar.  As an adult in my late 40s, the task has proven challenging.  But it has also reinforced an insight for me that small adjustments, incremental investments of effort consistently and diligently applied make a great difference.  My mistakes of timing or fingering are very noticeable to me and not at all unapparent to my instructor.  Nevertheless, he recognizes my progress and encourages me in ways that sustain my commitment to learning the instrument.

Getting high performance from others requires us to demonstrate clearly not only what we consider important, such as regular practice, but also the value we place on attending to the little things and striving to improve in both small and not so small ways.

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