Content vs. Context: Which Matters Most?

By: Luciana Nunez

Very often in my 20+ years as a business leader, and now as an executive coach and board member, I’ve had deep conversations with leaders that spend a lot of time perfecting their craft, style, and skills, as they believe this “content” is the secret sauce to their success.

In other words, they are implicitly assuming that their content is the most important component for top performance. From their years and areas of experience to their soft skills and achievements, most leaders place a high premium on their own content, under the premise that it is the single most important driver to sustained results.

My belief is that success is actually 50% content and 50% context. And I have learned that you are just as responsible for your context as you are for the content.

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By “context” I mean the business environment in which you showcase and bring to life your content. From your company culture to your immediate team, picking or creating the right context is just as important as getting your own content right.

There are a few moments in your journey when carefully choosing context really matters. One of the most important is when doing your due diligence and research while you are evaluating a new job opportunity. Being able to honestly and carefully assess if the context in which you will operate is a good fit to your content is key to predicting your chances for future success.

We are often optimistic creatures and tend to overlook many essential aspects of these intangibles, as we often focus more on the attractiveness of the business model, the role we are considering, or the “wow” factor of the company.

What context elements to look for in a due diligence phase:

  • Have I been transparent and explicit about my skills and my style? Have I asked multiple stakeholders how that will play out in the context of the company culture?

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Another key moment where spending time consciously thinking about context is when you are building the culture of a team or an entire company.

As the architect of context, you should be asking yourself these questions:

  • What do we want to achieve as a business and what content/skills do I need to reach these goals?

When going through the process of assessing the context in a new opportunity, or building the context in your own business, it is key to open your thinking to other ways to look at things. Engaging people you know and trust as thinking partners can be key to help you avoid the trap of overlooking the importance of context.

Realizing that you put the right content in the wrong context when it’s too late is definitely not a good place to be, so being able to spend time reflecting and really doing your homework early on to strike a virtuous balance between content and context will pay off.

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Lucia Nunez is an executive coach with 20+ years in senior business leadership roles, including as CEO of Fortune 500 companies. She helps her clients achieve their goals, and has a profound passion for and expertise in helping women leaders unleash their potential.

Originally published at

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