Closing the Gap


Every moment of every day we have the opportunity to close the gap on our promises with our executions. To be in the moment, in conversation to both make sense of things and receive feedback about what is appropriate.

Making sense of things is hard, especially as we're called to make decisions while we're moving.

The degree of difficulty with closing the gap goes up exponentially when we forget to be in the moment as we're doing what we (know) we need to do to get the job done. It is the value of your promise and the wisdom of the trade that earns your place in the market.

Whether we think we're right or wrong is not at issue in most situations. The weight of past decisions and experiences, stories we hold onto, assumptions we make, habits we've hired, etc. factor in as much as we let them.

We have plenty of communication and execution tools.  

Mind the gap

There are intended as well as unintended consequences to our actions (or inactions). When we increase our situational awareness, we increase our probability we will be appropriate.

It's probably easiest to see this principle at work by looking at examples of mis-alignment.

"Your call is important to us"

This is a best practice line borrowed from customer support messaging, a variation of which is still wildly in use by HR departments. Many organizations are still working on their buy strategy and inside business model. 

A symptom of this confusion is the standard your request has been prosecuted response when you actually do what the company asked you to do: apply for a job. Doesn't everyone know you don't get a job that way anymore?

Everyone but the organization requesting that candidates follow their process? If we agree it's broken, why continue with it?

Conversely, if we know better, why not lead by example? Here's an example of an individual who got attention. [hat tip Chris Brogan] Don't be so fast in judging the merits of this execution — brands and businesses go down that path daily.

A better question is how can we listen better to find the candidates we seek?

Go on, apply for a job with your own company. See for yourself what you get when you call your 800-number. Write down the three things that worked to connect you with a top notch candidate. How can you look at your process to get to more of those?

"Give us your strategy for free"

This is an issue agencies need to confront quite often. The standoff is a red herring, a symptom of a deeper misalignment.

Were you having a honest conversation about the issues, it would look much different. Take a look at some of the answers brand marketers have given and you will find some useful tidbits:

  • we would prefer to work more closely with the makers — are things getting lost in translation?
  • we need help on understanding the complexity of our macro business situation — is the agency approach so downstream that it's become too tactical?
  • we want a partner to help us coordinate and connect the dots — are you able to take the lead and work alongside a fairly layered organization?

Many of these comments speak to doing habits — operational side execution issues.

Do you expect your agency to wow you and underbid other agencies in a competitive pitch? Then why are you surprised when that's exactly what you get? How much information about your business do you share? Or is it how little?

"I'll never be able to do that"

Saving the best example for last. When our behaviors — individually and collectively — get in the way of us doing what we do and get better at it by doing it.

Which is why blacksmiths are better at startups than you. You've got to bang the iron to get the piece done, there's no way around that. Mastery is achieved by doing, sometimes a lot, sometimes many years before you get it done, not by doing just a little.

Most definitely not by talking about it, or having read about it. Amy Hoy says the students find themselves achieving extraordinary things… just as soon as they decide to get over their crap.

That's pretty consistent with the data points from every success story.


Making sense of things is hard. Harder yet when you are not in a hands-on type situation. Experiencing what you inflict on others counts toward that.

Contrary to what you may be lead to believe, life is not a huge popularity contest. Not even close.

Life is one big comprehension test and you may change your stance enough to cut to the chase and get to work on closing that gap between saying and doing. Business is a reality engine. Corporations are mechanisms to make and keep collective promises.

Listening and negotiating get you closer to the money.


[image courtesy of Hugh MacLeod]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a speaking engagement click here.

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