top of page
  • Writer's pictureHeather

Lessons Learned: The 'Say Do' Gap

Some of the greatest advice I’ve ever received was, “to look for the lesson in every professional setting.”

As people, we’re hardwired with emotions to help us navigate situations and interact with the world around us. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to"my gut” and I’ve found that there are lessons to be learned everywhere. 

Whether I was in an agency or corporate setting working with collaborative teams or command-and-control management, one thing always made the difference between success and failure: The Say Do Gap.

Similar to ‘walk the talk’ and ‘practice what you preach,’ the Say Do Gap is the relationship between your intentions and your actions. Those who maintain a narrow gap between what they say and what they do build credibility with others. A narrow Say Do Gap also indicates honesty, openness and integrity; all qualities that ladder up to trust. And trust is probably the most valuable currency we have now that our world is connected through technology and social media. 

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned recently that I want to share because I think they can be applied broadly.

  • Be honest. Always. People remember what you tell them. When you change your story too many times, it deteriorates any trust you’ve built with your employees (or friends or family members).

  • It’s okay not to know everything. You actually build more credibility when you admit what you don’t know, especially if you’ve hired experts who can provide guidance. By placing trust in them, you build a stronger, more resilient and “engaged” team.

  • Understand the difference between a vision (where you want to go) and reality (where you are currently). It’s imperative to set your team up for success in the current reality if you want them to help you achieve your vision.

  • Be upfront with budget constraints and resources. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. And don’t expect miracles if you are not willing to invest.

  • Surround yourself with good people. People who share your values and attitudes, and who take personal pride in their work. When you build a business, you are building a community at the same time. Be sure you know who is living next door and that you can trust them. (If your “gut” is telling you that something’s not right, it’s worth investigating.)

  • Communicate frequently, especially during times of great change. When in doubt, it’s always better to over communicate than to leave people wondering, worrying and raising anxiety. (The absence of communication is often a breeding ground for rumors.)

You’ll hear me reference the Say Do Gap often, especially if we get to work together. To me, it reflects values important to me.

Why is your Say Do Gap is important?

  • It represents trust, which is valuable currency in today’s global, connected economy. When you do what you say, people will believe you.

  • It’s an indicator for leadership. The political climate in the U.S. right now is proof positive that people are tired of lies and deceit. People want leaders who follow through on their promises.

  • It helps you build quality relationships. Who wants to work with people who constantly promise the world but never deliver.

  • It’s a reputation indicator, which is as good as gold in our networked world. Referrals matter. What people know about you from others matters. Your reputation is the sum of what everyone else thinks of you.

  • It’s a leading indicator for achievement. Everyone seems to root for the underdog because they represent the values of honesty, integrity, hard work and competence. If you strive to maintain a narrow Say Do Gap, you aren’t swimming upstream.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Do you agree that a Say Do Gap is important?


bottom of page