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Henry Ford’s “Reputation” Quote: An Analysis on Getting Things Done

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Henry Ford


When I heard this quote for the first time, I thought, “This is genius.” I love quotes about getting things done. I love getting things done. I love making “to do” lists and crossing off what’s done. I love thinking about everything I’m going to get done “one day when I have some free time.” I just love “done.” I love “done” much more than “to be done.” In the workplace and in “life in general,” it’s important to get things done. Here’s why:


1. Getting things done proves your ability to execute.


You’re proving that you can carry that task to completion. The fact that you can say something is “done” sets you apart from those who can’t get things done. As an employer, would you keep around someone who lets things pile up on their desk and never actually executes? Jobs are about execution. Your resume doesn’t include the things you’re “going to do” on it - it includes the things you’ve successfully done. Your ability to get things done and execute well are important for your success in the workplace.

When you build a reputation for getting things done, you may open yourself up to new opportunities. You may be able to expand your role and increase your responsibilities (and hopefully your pay) once you prove that you can handle it. Oppositely, when you’re a “doer” that can be trusted, people will start bringing you work that really doesn’t belong to you. It’s easy for people to take advantage of the “doer” by dumping work on them and using them as a safety net when it’s crunch time. If this starts happening to you, don’t see it as a bad thing! Through this, you’ll get to learn another important workplace skill… setting boundaries and saying “no.” :)


2. Getting things done is a confidence booster.


When you mark something as “done,” you’re proving to yourself that you have the capability to follow through and carry out the necessary steps to take that thing to completion. If something hangs out on your “going to do” list for too long, you will eventually lose hope that you’ll ever do that thing. Putting something on your to do list should produce more excitement than dread, if you KNOW you will follow through on it. Here’s an example.


I hate working out. As a 105-pound female who has yet to gain weight from eating terrible *delicious* food (my mom says “just wait”), I don’t see the point in intentionally making myself sweaty and exhausted when I can’t see tangible and “drastic” results afterward. Every now and then, I decide I want to be more “toned” - and I’ll say, “Okay, starting on Monday, I’m going to start working out.” I’ve said that probably 25 times. Guess how many times I’ve actually followed through? Maybe 3.


How do you think I’m going to feel about my ability to “get that done” the next time I decide to work out? Not so great. I’ve proven to myself that I struggle to follow through in this area - so this thing that “I’m going to do” doesn’t mean a whole lot. I’m not going to get excited about being toned, if I know in the back of my mind that I’m going to press snooze when my alarm goes off that morning. If I can’t trust myself to follow through, I can’t get excited about the possibility of results.


Unless I make the mental decision that, no matter what, I am going to get it done. If you decided that you’re GOING to do that thing you said you were going to do, how excited would you be?


If you said…


“I’m going to grow my business revenue by 15% in 2020.”

“I’m going to work out twice / week between now and the end of the year.”

“I’m going to get up early to read my Bible every day.”

“I’m going to make 3 healthy meals for my family next week.”


Those are nice things to say. But, what if you’re able to say…


“I grew my business revenue by 20% in 2020.”

“I worked out twice / week for 4 weeks.”

“I got up early to read my Bible every day.”

“I made my family 3 healthy meals last week.”


How cool would it be to say these things are DONE? How exciting would it be if, when you tell yourself you’re going to do something, you know you’re going to follow through on it and see results? Now THAT’s a confidence booster. And that confidence will continue to grow within yourself if you consistently follow through on the things you promise to yourself.


4. Getting things done is important because intentions don’t matter.


You may be thinking, “Yikes, Emily… that’s harsh!” But know that I’m speaking to myself as much as I’m speaking to you. I’m the queen of good intentions. I recently went to the Business Boutique conference in Nashville, where Christy Wright talked about the difference between actions and intentions. She gave the example of a birthday or anniversary gift from her husband. To paraphrase, she said she wouldn’t be bragging about what her husband intended to buy her for her birthday. She’d only brag about what he did buy. There’s a big difference in intending to buy your wife 75 roses and actually buying her 75 roses. This action aligns with Bob Goff’s belief that “love does.He so strongly believes that love is an action that he wrote a book with that exact title... “Love Does.” I’d highly recommend it.


In the business world, you’re not going to buy your boss 75 roses - but the idea is the same. Intentions and actions are not the same. And this is where Henry Ford’s quote rings true. “You cannot build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”


I’d argue that you actually CAN build a reputation on what you’re going to do… a BAD one! If you become known as that boss or that employee who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk, you will indeed build a reputation for yourself - as someone who cannot be trusted and is not reliable. That reputation is hard to reel back in. You’ll have to work yourself out of that hole if you want your employees / coworkers to believe what you say and follow your lead.


I had a boss who fit this description to a T. He often said things that I knew he would never follow through on. He once said he would give me something valued at $1,000, to help offset the fact that he couldn’t give me the raise I was asking for. Guess what? Did he ever give me that $1,000 something? Nope. Did I ever expect to see that $1,000 thing? Nope. Never. Because his reputation was based on “going to do” rather than “done.” As a result, rather than getting my hopes up, he essentially trained me to tune out all of his “going to do’s.” And as a leader who needs people on board with his vision, that’s dangerous.


Bottom Line: Be a Doer First!


Another quote that pairs well with Henry Ford’s quote is by Benjamin Franklin. It says, “Well done is better than well said.” I’ll leave you with this: be a doer first. It’s okay to be a sayer, but only after you can prove that you’re a doer. Doers change the world. Doers bring hope. Doers make others wonder what they should be doing. Doers gain new experiences. Doers inspire and motivate others. Doers make great leaders.

Being a doer will build your reputation, increase trust with those around you, boost your own confidence in yourself, and ultimately lead to a life full of impact. Now who doesn’t want that?


Emily Kern

Co-Founder

KORE Talents Consulting

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