Recently, I observed a head coach of a team yell at a player “What are you doing? Stay focused!” Her player had not being paying attention and the player she was guarding ran by her with the ball and scored. A day later in a business meeting, I observed a CEO tell one of his executives “These numbers are not good. Just go get it done!” Both the coach and CEO, leaders, were right in “what” they said. I call them “What” leaders, not to be confused with “how” leaders.
The “how” coach would have said “You lost your man. So look at the number on her jersey and keep your eyes on those numbers rest of the game.” The “how” CEO would have said “We gotta get these numbers up. Let’s get Beth and Pete in here and figure out how we can help you and come up with a plan.”
The “what” is rarely hard to figure out. In fact, in most cases I might argue, is fairly obvious. Leaders needs to recognize this and understand their value is not in stating the obvious “what” but in figuring out “how” to help make a course correction, how to help others, and how to communicate the “how” in a manner that will be received positively.
This week, observe yourself in your interactions. What is the label you would give your comments/observations? Is it a “what” or a “how” response? Filter your thoughts and force yourself to think about “how” and not just the “what.” Take it further and label all the comments that everyone is making in an interaction. How many “what” and how many “how” comments are your hearing. Teach others to make the shift to “how.” You will find the better you and those around you make this simple neurological shift, the faster you will see the “what” emerge.