The most important step, I feel, when I'm cooking is the prep work that goes in beforehand. What you do before the guests arrive, before the wines are poured, and before any kind of heat is applied, is absolutely critical to how the meal is going to turn out. Oh yes, the washing, the knifework, the organizing of all your ingredients on the counter - all that matters much more than working the stove and oven.
Like all good and fine things, it's the details that aren't immediately noticed that make the difference between a passable meal and a memorable one. Cooking's the easy part - it's just the correct application of heat, no?