I read this recently: “As the Why gets stronger the How Do I becomes insignificant”.

For someone who is a huge fan of purpose, passion and motivation, why did I find myself recoiling?

I’m a huge fan of the Why. It’s fuel, it’s passion, it’s what really makes the world go round, isn’t it?

But recently I’ve been discovering that the How is far from insignificant.

Ever been in an argument where “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”? If you’re married, you may be nodding especially fervently!

Several months ago, I found myself at loggerheads with a business contact, who felt they had the raw end of a deal – a deal that was not struck with me, but in their eyes, I had the lion’s share of what they wanted.

I and several others explained to them the logic and the facts, that there wasn’t and had never been any attempt to pull the wool over their eyes, or the rug from under their feet. But they still felt very hard done by. There were times when my suspicions were that they were simply throwing a tantrum to get what they wanted. But in the end, I realised that it would cause more damage to the wider group who had a stake in the situation, and ultimately my business and reputation if I clung on and fought. Even if I could prove to the letter of the law that I was in the right, if I had to fight to do so, I would have lost.

I made a decision to honour my values rather than my rights in How I conducted business.

Reading this BBC article on the Quaker roots of Cadbury, I am not alone. And there are many leading businesses which invest significantly in embedding their values and ethics into the whole of their brand – including how they conduct themselves in the course of everyday business.

And anyone involved in negotiations – whether of the hostage, political, business or marital variety – will know that it often has little to do with being in the right; rather it’s how you conduct yourself that will determine the outcome.

Even if you were able to engineer a favourable outcome, compromising your How can taint the taste of your ‘success’. Will wealth and power, for those who amass it though the exploitation and oppression, truly give them security, fulfilment or freedom? Does the tyrant who achieves adulation through fear or manipulation ever experience the true love that they crave?

Many of the ugliest moments in history probably involve a virtuous Why that got completely corrupted in the How.

So yes, the Why is important AND the How is crucial. To have substance, integrity, to do justice to the Why, our How must go side by side.


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