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Posted by on Apr 2, 2010

The How of the What

The How of the What

A lot of management and even leadership thinking focuses on the “what” of work – deadlines, meetings, delegation, feedback, and so on. These are defined activities with a purpose, result and presumably some kind of measure.

What is often missed in mechanistic models of workplace performance, however, is an understanding, let alone embracing of the “how.”

The how is subjective, nuanced and very often the difference between success and failure. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you’re giving feedback to an employee on a busted deadline. The what here is pretty straight-forward – identify what happened, causes of that, what can be changed to make the next deadline, and so on.

However, it is easy to see that artful feedback would help the other person own the problem, not feel personally attacked, and come up with great ideas for a solution. The difference between a defensive, arm’s length and strained conversation, and one in which honestly, directness, support and a genuine intention to help is the how. It’s the difference between the sheet music and the playing. It is art.

It is easy to nominally check a what box. Harder to assess, but crucial to success, is how the what is achieved.

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