Squashing the “Know-Do Gap”

By Joe Connelly

I got the inspiration for this article on a recent visit to England. I was staying at my sister’s and decided to have breakfast on the patio on a stunning summer’s morning. I reveled at the amazing greenery, the glorious sunshine after days of rain, the scrumptious healthy breakfast, and of course the much-anticipated coffee. I sat there for 90 minutes slowly but surely getting red as a lobster. My fair Scottish skin was in dire need of sunblock – I knew that. But I sat there in the splendor of my surroundings, and quickly turned into a bright shade of red.

On reflecting afterwards, I was thinking about the often discussed and written about “say-do gap”. This is when you say one thing and choose to do something else, effectively creating a noticeable gap. Of course the goal is to do what you say, thus eliminating the gap entirely. But, I didn’t say to anyone I was going to apply sun block that morning so – phew – no gap for me to close.

But as I thought more about it, I realized I had identified an area that appears to be even more common than the “say-do gap”, and that is the “know-do gap”. In the above scenario I “know” that I need to apply sun block when the sun is strong, but that morning there was a rather obvious gap in what I knew and what I did. And so was born the concept for me of the “KNOW-DO GAP”.

Like most people, I try hard to minimize or eliminate the say-do gap, and if I don’t for whatever reason, the likelihood is high that someone will point it out to me – I did publicly say it after all. I’m actually okay with that although it can get a bit embarrassing at times. However, no one gets to comment to me about the know-do gap (at least most of the times), since I haven’t told anyone. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and so when you are walking about red as a lobster do expect people to make some comments – somehow managing to read your mind and eagerly highlighting your noticeable know-do gap.

As an executive coach helping clients make big changes, my biggest challenge is not actually helping them with the say-do gap, it’s actually the know-do gap. So, before you worry about the say-do gap there might actually be a better, more logical, place to start: “Why do we create the know-do gap in the first place?” Without doubt at the very heart of this question is your own psychology, and how you choose to live your life – knowing that every person is different and distinct from this perspective. However, there are common threads that join most of us together here including:

Laziness – sometimes we get a natural bout of laziness and just want to take it easy, or try and take the easy option.

Intransigence – this is highly mood dependent and revolves around the “I don’t care” feeling, which is more heightened if we are unwell, tired or dehydrated.

Embracing the impact – involves not wanting to accept the inevitable outcomes of the non-action and often highlights not wanting to think logically about the near future.
It won’t happen to me – often an illogical approach that bears no relation to reality e.g. I will not get sunburn sitting under a full and strong sun.

It won’t impact me – even if it happens the consequences will not have any negative impact on me. Again often based on illogical thoughts and feelings.

The goal must logically be to minimize (or better still eradicate fully) the know-do gap. But this as we all know is easier said (or written about) than done. But surely there must be a way? I pondered over this question for a while with my bright red skin continuing to be a reminder for me, and came up with the following thoughts and ideas that may help the next time you find yourself falling headlong into the know-do gap:

Take time to think. The biggest challenge, and at the same time opportunity, for the know-do gap is to actually just take a few brief moments to think (as opposed to immediately react). This can often be enough to reveal the common sense needed to make the right decision.

Remove the barrier. It’s clear there is obviously something mental, physically, emotionally or spiritually that is providing a block or barrier to making the right decision. Finding out what it might be may give you the power to remove it.

Focus on outcomes. Train your mind to concentrate a little more on the outcome – once you weigh up both the positive and negative potential outcomes, this might well be enough to kick-start the positive-outcome action.

Reward yourself. Make the right decision, receive the best outcome and say thank-you to yourself.

I think of the know-do gap as being more about me since I have not publicly stated anything, whereas I think of the say-do gap as being public since I have stated (or implied) something. Although these two phenomena are very different, they do have in common the concept of a gap – a gap that you know about or one that is public – but a gap nonetheless. Your goal therefore must be to become a “gap-closing master”.

Someone who feels uncomfortable in the knowledge there is a gap of any sort. This gap can be closely tied to authenticity and integrity – authenticity to yourself and integrity with others. Both have at their roots your own personal values. So you can now begin to see that any gap is really a gap in your own personal values, and as such should be considered unacceptable. Of course you could change or amend your core values to compensate, but the reality is that at this stage of your life your core values are likely pretty well set, so that’s not really an option.

So, know that any gap you create is one of personal choice. It’s this personal choice that makes life so interesting and intriguing. By taking control of your personal choices, understanding and taking full accountability for their corresponding outcomes, and deciding to live your life without “gaps”, can simply transform your life. We are all gifted with intelligence and common sense, and it’s our choice as to how and when to use them. I truly believe that living a life of transparency and integrity, will allow you to eradicate both the know-do gap and the say-do gap. And in fact I believe that with a little bit of effort you can eradicate both at the same time. Phew.

So what does it look like after this effort? A person who uses their instinct, knowledge and experience to do what is right, and who lives up fully to their commitments whether they are explicit or implied. That’s true character building and positive perception creating.

P.S. Remember to wear sun block.

Joe Connelly is Founder & CEO of Salesleadership.com, a worldwide Executive Sales Coaching and Consultancy company, with offices in Canada and Switzerland. Joe can be reached at joe@salesleadership.com.