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Do you believe?

As leaders our words have a very powerful impact on those that we are empowered to lead.  The reality is that our actions have even a far more powerful impact than those words.  Leaders have to always be consciencous of the fact that their employees are always watching and listening to see if your actions align with your words.  If there is any sort of misalignment, than your leadership credibility suffers greatly.  The same goes for  the collective leadership team of an organization.  Far too often leaders spout rhetoric around the need to make decisions that align with company values or why implementing standardized processes and procedures will be critical for future growth, etc. while their actions completely contradict their words.

Far too often I have seen leadership credibility compromised because employees simply do not BELIEVE in what their leaders are telling them.  It is your and my role(s) to make sure that in our capacity as leaders we ensure that we do not give our staff reasons to not believe.  Here is the thing, I don’t know about you, but in the companies imageI have worked for we have always hired smart people.  (varying degrees mind you, but for the most part very smart people!). Rest assured, they do not accept everything at face value just because a manager said so.  You have to prove to them that you mean what you say.  So, don’t preach to your employees that recognition and rewards are important to employee engagement and organizational success and then not provide any type of budget that allows for rewards to be given or that enforces the level and type of recognition you want to see!  In this case, (in)action speaks louder than words!

I have also seen this lack of alignment in companies that preach about needing rigour around their processes and procedures.  Executives go on a traveling organizational road show to extole the virtues of having a standardized system in place and how it will allow the company to achieve its growth strategy.  The employees get behind this new way of doing business and are accepting of it as it will make their jobs easier as they use these processes to achieve their performance outcomes.  Then, before you know it, managers and executives are choosing to not follow these same processes and procedures as they see fit, despite their message around their importance.  The message really delivered to employees is, “this only applies to the little people, we do not need to follow this.”  See how the actions don’t align with the words?  Now, do you think that employees, moving forward, are going to believe in what their leaders are telling them?

I can’t stress enough the importance of this alignment with leadership words and actions.  Your employees are always watching and listening.  In order to help ensure that you, as a leader, are staying ‘aligned’, there are three basic tenants that you can follow when it comes to your employees and making sure your actions and words align:

1) Show and tell your employees what you expect of them:  (i.e. behaviours, actions, values, processes/procedures, customer interaction, etc.)

2)Model the way/lead by example (there can be no ambiguity here, your success as an effective leader depends on this)

3) Hold yourself accountable for your own actions or inactions: (this is the sanity check and the toughest step.  Your staff will ‘forgive’ you if you slip up, just get back on track!)

At the end of the day, there is no magic here – it is simply leadership by example.   In order to further the organizational agenda, its leadership team must be modelling the way through its own actions.  This in turn will lead to employees believing in its organizational leaders.  The real pay off in this approach is during the ‘tough’ times.  For example, when the company is forced to make tough decisions (i.e. layoffs, restructures, etc.) its employees are more likely to “believe” in the long term vision that the company is describing.  They are more likely to believe that these actions are necessary for long term viability.  Conversely, organizations can’t ask employees to cut back on expenses/reduce overhead to help get the company back on track and then have its leadership team flying business class all over the country.  In this case, actions and words most definitely don’t align and employees simply won’t believe!

So, the next time you are asking your employees to follow a particular departmental or organizational direction,  you need to reflect upon your past actions or inactions and ask yourself, “will they believe….do they believe?”  As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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5 Responses

  1. Leadership 101 nicely summarized 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on The Armchair HR Manager – Advice from an "HR Fan" and commented:

    From the “not so” dusty archives

  3. Lovely article and so true. Your employees will model your behaviour

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