How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything

A few years back, I was in a partnership with Terrie Ten Eyck of Intellectual Architects. One of the things she often said was “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

I have come to see the wisdom of her words. It’s difficult for me to believe that a person can be one way in one situation, and a completely different way in another. For example, it’s difficult to believe that John Edwards can make the kind of problematic decisions in his personal life, and then be trusted to make good decisions as a public servant.

To take a more historical example, it became clear that the American public felt that if Nixon could screw around with the Constitution to protect his presidency, he couldn’t be trusted to put their interests before in own in anything else.

And one closer-to-home example; in fact, one that occurred in my own back yard. I had tree branches that were coming close to pushing down on the power line coming to my house. After a call to my electricity provider, I was informed that while they would take care of branches on the main line, any branches that affected the line from the pole to my house would be my responsibility. However, they would  come out and drop the power to the line while a tree trimmer was working.

So, I contacted some tree services, and each sent a representative out to give me an estimate. The first one was a nice guy who seemed to know what he was doing. But when I mentioned that I would be contacting the power company to drop the line, he said. “You don’t need to do that. We work around live power lines all the time.”

That gave me pause, for 3 reasons. First, I work with a lot of companies to help them improve their safety efforts through their culture and people. So I am pretty steeped in the notion that every hazard should be controlled. Second, about 15 years ago a tree trimmer died in my neighbor’s yard after coming into contact with a power line. The image of him hanging lifeless from his harness still haunts me.

And third were Terrie’s words. If this guy is willing to cut corners on safety, could I trust him to do a good job? To my way of thinking, safety and quality go hand-in-hand. If he wasn’t willing to work safely, I was betting he wouldn’t do a quality job, either.

The next guy actually brought up contacting the power company to drop the line. He also gave me a copy of his liability insurance policy and a few references. Right there I knew he was a professional in how he ran his business and how he sold his services. I had confidence that the work he did would be equally professional.

Admittedly, being consistent is a high bar for all of us. It’s not so much that we aren’t always perfect; we’re humans, after all. What I’m suggesting is that we all get better at recognizing our inconsistencies, and determining how we want to show up…all the time.


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