It is worth asking yourself a simple question.
Does my behaviour as a leader match what I’m saying? (am I walking the talk?)
Or, are you saying things that are in conflict with the way that your team and organisation operates?
You often can’t have everything, because some aspects of what a company tries to achieve are opposite in nature.
Consider Josh. His manager has asked him to work on several complex deliverables simultaneously, within tight timeframes. During the day, he swaps from one task to the other as his manager comes and ask him questions and gives him more work to do. He juggles these tasks as best he can and eventually finishes one of them.
When his manager reviews the work, he asks Josh why he has found several errors. “These reports need to be perfect”, he chastises. This manager expects the highest of quality, at the same time as expecting Josh to perform at his peak speed. This manager has always said that quality comes first. In the same breath, he has given Josh too many things to work on simultaneously. This manager is not walking the talk.
Some more examples:
If you want to have the highest quality, then you normally can’t deliver the fastest, because delivering faster than normal means cutting corners.
If you want to have an intense focus on the customer, then you need to know that having an intense internal focus on the money you’re making is not going to result in the same outcome.
If you want to achieve the lowest cost to deliver a product, then you can’t expect that product to be of the highest possible quality.
Many leaders aren’t walking the talk, because they are trying to achieve conflicting goals
One thing I’ve noticed is that many leaders espouse conflicting ideals, primarily because of the pressure they are under to deliver. This comes from the top, and a failure to acknowledge this is a recipe for disaster.
If leaders are saying that customer outcomes are the most important thing, then they need to take actions that align with this ethos.
Leaders simply cannot be perceived as reasonable when their “ultimate goal” is customer focus, while all they are doing is focusing on the bottom line and how much revenue is recorded.
When leaders espouse one thing and actually do another, what results is usually a decrease in morale. People aren’t stupid. They know that they can’t do the best thing for the customer if all they are doing is focusing on cost cutting and revenue raising.
A sense of hopelessness then sets in. If I know I can’t realistically succeed because I am working with conflicting objectives, then I feel as if I have no chance of success. When I have no chance of success, I start to put in less effort, because I know I’m screwed anyway.
It is easier to be walking the talk than to continue to reinforce conflicting ideals
I’m a big believer in introspection. I believe that monitoring one’s own thoughts, emotions and actions is one of the most important aspects to success in leadership.
Introspection is hard work, but the only way you can lead a healthy team is when you yourself are healthy inside. If you are forcing your team to do one thing while you are saying another, you are out of alignment. If you aren’t walking the talk, then you will lose the respect of your team and your peers. Most importantly, you will lose respect for yourself.
If you wake up one day and think “What the hell am I doing?”, that’s a great position to be in, because you know something is not right. Acknowledging the issue is the first step in solving the problem.
Putting the blinkers on and walking through life without analysing your internal thoughts and resulting actions is a good way to be the type of leader that people regard as unreasonable and false.
Follow this simple “walking the talk” checklist
- As a leader, do you feel as if you can reasonably achieve the goals that are set out for you?
- Do you feel that your own leaders are asking you to do things that are counter to what you would expect from your own team?
- When you speak, do you actually believe what you say? Or are you simply repeating the false rhetoric of the leaders who don’t have to deal with the issues that you do?
- Do you find yourself saying “yes” to illogical requests from leadership, even though in your heart you would love to tell them that it’s not the right thing to do?
Walking the talk is an admirable trait of strong leaders, because they understand that if you can’t reconcile your words with your actions, you have very little chance of engaging your employees. Why would you follow somebody who embraces conflicting ideals without acknowledging the problems in trying to do so?
Have you come across leaders who say and do different things? What conflicting goals are they aiming for?