There’s a line of thinking in the business world today that the most crucial part of any organization is its Why.’ And David Horsager agrees that purpose is important. “If you have a strong enough ‘Why,’ you don’t need the perfect strategy,” he says.
But Horsager, author of the recently-released The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day, believes there’s another important question that too many leaders and organizations don’t ask themselves enough: How. “People stop way too early on the How,'” he says. For example, lots of bosses claim they want to appreciate their people more. “How’re you going to do that?” Horsager asks. “Until people say to me, ‘I’m going to write an appreciation note every day for the next 90 days,’ I don’t trust them.”
When it comes to objectives—personal, professional or organizational—having a clear path to reaching them is as important as coming up with them in the first place. Horsager uses the shorthand of identifying something that you can start doing today or tomorrow to achieve your goal. “When I’m actually clear about the how, that actually motivates [and] gives me hope,” he says.
Trust Edge, Horsager’s firm, pushes clients it consults for to come up with a clear, coherent “How,” even if that means asking the question over and over again. To illustrate the method, he cites the example of a major North American healthcare organization that had been going through a rough patch. In a meeting with the senior leadership, Horsager asked, “What do you think is the most important thing you could do to build more trust and move your organization forward?” Clarity, responded the team leader. “How are you going to do that?” Horsager asked. After some discussion, the individual responded that the organization would work to communicate more. Horsager responded with the same question. After deliberating with his team, the leader said that the there’d need to be more mutual accountability. Again, Horsager pressed him for a more direct answer. “Finally he got to something specific and actionable,” Horsager recalls.
The process may sound awkward, but it’s necessary. “We ask ‘How?’ until people are going to do something differently today or tomorrow, whether it’s personally or in their organization,” Horsager says. His book translates the back-and-forth into a 90-day Quick Plan Strategy, the same one Horsager says he used twice over to lose a total 50 lb. of weight, and which he claims readers have used to triple sales in the same amount of time.
Another mistake people make in pursuit of their own goals is failing to prioritize or actively neglecting key tasks. “People want to feel like they’re working, [to] feel valuable,” but they’re naturally inclined to avoid anything they think might be painful or difficult, Horsager says. Executives often say the first thing they do in the morning is to read a newspaper or look for leadership tips because they think keeping on top of those things is an essential part of leadership, he observes. “[But] that is not the most important thing that they could do,” he says. “If they did that most important thing that they’re avoiding, it could change everything today, but they avoid it [by] doing kind of faux work or faux important things.”
Knowing what that most important thing is starts with understanding your “How.” Without it, you and your organization will simply run out of drive before you cross the finish line. “The How?’ is more critical than people think,” says Horsager. “They want to just talk about the Why?’ and be inspired forever. But you actually have to get to a How?’ because that gives hope.”
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