Winning Words

Oriented toward action and focused on results


Proactive or reactive. I did or did not. I can or cannot. I will or will not. When we look at those statements quickly, which words resonate with us personally? What I typically see is that people who connect with the words “proactive,” “I did,” “I can” and “I will” tend to be more action-oriented and results-focused.

There is no right or wrong answer here. Those of us who may have felt more comfortable with the words “reactive,” “I did not,” “I cannot” and “I will not” are sometimes less action-oriented and not as worried about the results. Some of us in this group are comfortable letting others take the actions necessary to achieve the results we are seeking.

One of the best lessons that I have learned that has impacted my personal life and my career has been to understand the difference between “Will” and “Skill.” In most cases, “Skill” can be something we acquire over time. Yet no matter how proficient we become at a certain “Skill”, if we do not have the “Will” to actually use the skill, we will always come up short when it comes to the achievement of our goals and dreams. Action orientation begins with “Will.”

“Skill” without “Will” usually manifests itself with poor performance and low productivity. “Will” without “Skill” does not really help either. We would be left with awesome desire and a positive attitude, but no knowledge of what to do and how to get things done. When this happens, it could lead to inaction, which consequently compromises our results.

Over the years I have interviewed, hired, trained, managed and led hundreds of people. And I would say that more often than not, when a new hire didn’t work out, as I looked back at the reason why, it was because I hired based on perceived “Skill” instead of “Will.” If given a choice today, I would always hire for “Will” before “Skill” assuming that there was the right onboarding and learning pathway to help develop the skills necessary for success.

As an example, when I interview people today, for any role or position in a company, I try and get to both “Skill” and “Will.” Skill shows up easily in resumes, on LinkedIn profiles, in certifications, and in reference checks. And the way I try and identify “Will" is to ask questions like, “Tell me about a time where being proactive helped you in your previous position.” “Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a decision to take action or choose not to take a specific action?” “Can you share a time where having a 'can do’ attitude made a difference for you and the results that you achieved?”

This applies to our personal life as well. How many times have we looked back on a time in life where we said things such as, “I wish I had said …” or “I could have asked …” or “If only I had done …” This type of reflection usually occurs when we choose inaction over taking action. Or when we were reacting instead of being proactive. And in our “woulda,” “shoulda” and “coulda” moments, our regrets become real when we realized that we placed our desired results in the hands of someone else.

Here’s the thing, inaction and taking action are both a choice. We can sit back and hope that the outcome or result is something that we can accept or just live with. Or we can get in the game and be a part of the achievement and success that we have dreamed about.

So how about you? Are there any “woulda,” “shoulda” or “coulda” moments where you could have taken action to create a better outcome or result? Are you already someone who has the skill and is applying the will that leads to success? I would love to hear your story at, and when we are action-oriented and results-focused, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is the grateful CEO of, a personal and professional coach, and a consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator to businesses of all sizes.

Michael Norton


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