Unlocking Potential

The 4 Steps for How to Move Leaders from Knowing to Doing

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Published on: May 2017

Written by: Jennifer Sukalo

Think about an exceptional leader with whom you have had the opportunity to work or interact.

Why would you categorize that person as an exceptional leader? Can you list the characteristics or specific behaviors that leader exhibits? Of course you can. Now, take a look at that list and ask yourself, how many of these do I exhibit?

Have you ever wondered what gets people to actually start doing what they know they should do? If we know what we should be doing, why are we not doing it? What does it take to get to make it actually happen? I have spent much of my life researching this very question, and in our work with leaders all over the world, the solution has begun to reveal itself. It is simpler than you might think, so let’s see what we can uncover together.

No more excuses

“I am too busy.” “I do not have time.” “I am trying.” “I will get to that next month.” “It is on my list.” “I can’t because…”

Any of these sound familiar? For me too. Excuses are what we use to help us feel better about not doing what we set out to do. The funny thing is, we always seem to find time for the things that are really important to us. The first step in unlocking potential, and moving from knowing to doing is to LISTEN to your excuses. Determine what is behind them. What is keeping you from acting on what you already know you should do? Are there real obstacles and limitations, or are these of your own making? When you identify what is in your way, you can figure out how to minimize the obstruction, or get rid of it completely. I can see the look of uncertainty on your face. Yes, it really is that simple.

Embrace your role

Being a leader is not about YOU, how much YOU can accomplish or how much success YOU can achieve.

Lao Tzu said it this way: “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

Leadership is about those you lead. When those you lead succeed, you succeed. When you recognize this, and acknowledge that your true role as a leader is about others, your mindset alters and you unlock your potential as a leader. So, the next step in unlocking potential and moving from knowing to doing is to EMBRACE your role as a leader. When you begin to see your role as a privilege instead of a burden, as an opportunity to positively impact those you lead, the shift in mindset is immediate and profound. You find yourself with a new desire to do what you already know to do. This desire fosters action.

One step at a time

Ever feel overwhelmed by something you wanted to do? That overwhelming feeling is what leads to excuses, and keeps us from doing. Feeling overwhelmed occurs when you try to do too much at once. For example, when you start exercising after not doing anything for a long while, you do not set out to exercise five days a week. It is best to start small, and begin with one day. It is much easier to fit one day into your existing routine than to try to fit five. Five days is daunting, but one feels doable. Then when you accomplish the one day, you feel excited to continue.

The third step in moving from knowing to doing is to ADJUST your focus and concentrate on small, doable actions. Focus on what you want to have happen, your desired state. What steps do you need to take in order for that to be reality? Now, how do you break those steps into even smaller steps that are easier to do? These steps become your road map to success. Start with one thing at a time, and allow that one thing to become part of your everyday routine. Adjusting your focus to concentrate on small, doable steps frees you from the paralysis of being overwhelmed. Small steps lead to big action over time.

What are you waiting for?

There is a powerful phrase that has stuck with me for years. When people would complain to author and coach Steve Chandler about not knowing how to get started doing whatever it was they wanted to do, he would say:
“Then you are not ready. Because when you are ready, you will simply start doing.”

OK, here it is. This is my favorite part. The key to moving from knowing to doing lies within you. When you finally recognize that no one else is in your way but you, it is as if you suddenly reach into your pocket and notice that you have had the key to the steel door that has blocked your way all along. Now you just need to DECIDE to use it, and simply start doing. Let that sink in for a moment. How amazing is that? Moving from knowing to doing is within your control. So, what are you waiting for? It is time to start doing.

When you put the pieces together, you find that solving the mystery of moving from knowing to doing is about choosing to L.E.A.D.


  • Listen to your excuses and determine what is really behind them, and in your way.


  • Embrace your role as a leader, recognize the privilege and opportunity to positively impact others.


  • Adjust your focus and concentrate on small, doable steps that lead to big action.


  • Decide to act. Choose to be an exceptional leader instead of just describing what they do.
Take your first step

Identify one thing you can do today that will have the greatest impact on your ability to lead others to perform at their best and deliver exceptional results. Record this on a post-it-note and place the note where it will be visible to you throughout the day. Next, create a calendar reminder to ask yourself the following questions before your close out the day:

  • Did I do the action on my post-it-note today?
  • If so, what was the impact of that action? How can I continue to progress this action going forward?
  • If not, do not despair. Work through the L.E.A.D steps to remove the barriers to action.
    • Listen – What excuses got in my way today? What is behind those excuses?
    • Embrace – How did I embrace my role today and see it as a privilege instead of a burden?
    • Adjust –How can I adjust my focus and break this action down into an even smaller, more doable step?
    • Decide – What else can I do to make it easier to decide to act instead of just staring at the post-it-note?

We have seen tremendous success from leaders who have adopted these four steps in improving their leadership, thus getting through the barriers from knowing to actually doing and accelerating strategic implementation. Let us know how these work for you, and feel free to send me a note with any questions around this at

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