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The Difference Between What and How

For anything that you do in business (or life for that matter), there is a 'what' and a 'how'. Most people believe that 'what' they do is more important than 'how' they do it. These are people who are often myopically focused on the endpoint, ignoring the collateral damage. I would contend that 'how' you do things is equal to, if not more important than, 'what' you do.

For an example, look no further than the recent Lebron James free agency saga. He has taken tremendous criticism for the whole episode. However, he brought it on himself because of 'how' he did things, not because of 'what' he did.

What did he do?  After 7 years with one team, and an entire career in one state, he decided that he wanted a change of scenery. Further, he elected to take less money to go to a different team (who is the last athlete to do that?). Lastly, he decided that he wanted to play with some of his friends, increasing each of their chances of success. In my view, there is nothing wrong with 'what' he did.

How did he do it? He made the whole episode into a spectacle about him. He strung alot of teams on, when it is now clear he had no intention of going there. He gave no indications to his team of 7 years on his real desires or what he wanted. He left them in the dark, as if he never knew them.  By focusing on himself, he alienated everyone that he could have brought along with him in the process.

In this case, as in many others I see, the negativity around the 'how' overshadowed the 'what'. Now, he will live with the repercussions.

The business world is no different. People have long memories. The 'what' is important to everyone, but I think the 'how' is on equal ground in the minds of many.

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