Many people are committed to solving problems or finding ways to get ahead in their business. They are dedicated to succeeding and are quite diligent about making things happen. When asked what they are willing to do to be successful, they reply “whatever it takes.”
On the surface, this sounds like a great response – people are so driven by their eagerness to succeed that they are willing to do most anything to make it happen. This is where what sounds nice as an ideal and what may be actual practice can be quite different.
We really don’t want people to literally do whatever it takes to find a solution or to be successful. What they likely mean – and we would want for them to do – is whatever is feasible, reasonable, ethical, or legal. The phrase “whatever it takes” implies that there are no borders or boundaries. This should not be the case though.
While we want people to have perseverance and to stay with a direction they have selected, we don’t want them to do anything unseemly in the process.
Someone could tell us – or we could say to someone else – that they (or we) are willing to do whatever it takes to make a sale, complete the job on time or under budget, find a solution, or keep a step ahead of the competition. This sounds like a large dose of determination. It sounds like they (or we) are going to do everything to succeed and not settle for anything less than that.
What if success is not feasible or even possible in a given situation? Does this mean that they will cross the line and resort to tactics that are not allowed by law or by general rules of decency? “Whatever it takes” could mean just that. If it takes going overboard or stretching what is normally considered permissible or in good taste, they just might be willing to do it.
Hopefully, someone does not mean or even think that their statement about doing anything and everything it takes to get the job done means that they would work outside the lines. We would hope that they are intending to be so relentless, resourceful, and persistent in their pursuit of a solution for us and their other clients that it would seem as though they were willing to do most anything in order to accomplish what they set out to do or what they have agreed upon.
Let’s be careful ourselves of using this phrase so that it can’t be misconstrued. Likely few people would think that we meant anything inappropriate by it, but the phrase does leave open that possibility. Instead, let’s convey our intent and willingness to be so committed in our approach that we won’t be content with coming up short – as long as it’s legal, and as long as there is a way it can be done, we’ll find it and do it. That’s what we really mean!