Knowing isn’t doing

“Leadership” is a lot about behaviours that positively impact others. Many of these behaviours are fairly standard ‘respect and decency’ type.

Some of you may be thinking “um, that’s obvious, isn’t it?”

When we talk about these foundational behaviours, it might seem like it’s obvious. Well, in many respects it is – most of us have learnt from childhood that we should treat others well.

And we also know that we should limit sugary foods, yet a chocolate feast is hard to ignore!

‘Knowing’ isn’t ‘doing’!

This brings us to what is commonly referred to as the ‘knowing-doing’ gap. We know the best approach, the behaviours expected, the pit-falls to avoid…yet we don’t always follow through. We ‘know’ yet don’t ‘do’.

Knowing-doing gap examples.

  • I know that I should greet all colleagues politely, yet at times I don’t, because some of them annoy me!
  • I know that it’s inappropriate to raise my voice at people in the office; I find managing my emotions difficult and so occasionally I do yell at people.
  • I know that it’s my responsibility to give staff feedback; it’s just hard to find the time.
  • I know that clients/patients deserve my empathy; I’m just so tired today.

You might know what is or isn’t appropriate; you might know the theory of a particular situation. Are you actually ‘doing’ as you ‘know’?

How to hold ourselves accountable ?

A good place to start is to ask yourself:

  • Are there times recently when an action I’ve taken was not the best approach?
  • In which circumstances do I most fall into a ‘knowing-doing’ gap?
  • What stops me from the ‘doing’?
  • What would help me eliminate the ‘knowing-doing’ gap in these circumstances?

It may be a matter of increasing your knowledge, practicing your skills, committing to action, or seeking support from a mentor or coach. Take one step; take action – don’t fall into the gap!


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