Feb 4, 2013
Have you ever worked for someone that said all the right things, yet delivered on very few of them?
Early in my career I worked for a company where the CEO was amazing at getting everyone excited. I joined the company right around the time he took the CEO post. He knew all the right things to say and exactly how to get us fired up. I would leave sales meetings encouraged and ready to take on the world. Only after a few of these pep talks it became obvious that most of what was being said greatly contrasted with what was being done.
It didn’t take long for the team to begin to realize this and over time I watched a once great organization become a cultural wasteland.
Perhaps that is because one of the fastest ways (If not THE fastest) for a leader to fall on their face is to be accused of being all talk.
You know, the one that stands in front of the group and gives the Ra Ra and then heads to the golf course or even worse to their office to hide from “The Action” that is taking place below.
This is because people don’t look to leadership for management.
While of course your teams are seeking some guidance and direction, what they are truly looking for is to be inspired by whatever it is the organization is doing.
That is precisely why you have to steadfast as a leader to not get caught up in your own hype and to focus on always doing exactly what you say to people. There are many reasons why this is so important, but here are a few of the most important reasons why we as leaders cannot allow ourselves to be labeled as talkers.
Productivity: The second your employees get wind that you don’t do what you say you will, you can bet that their sense of urgency dwindles.
Morale: Along with your productivity, you can count on lower morale. When your team becomes aware that you aren’t who you say you are, or at least aren’t doing what you say you will do, it is a spirit breaker.
Trust: The single most important ingredient (according to me) to successful leadership. All of the skill, experience and even results go out the window when trust is lost. And in the eyes of most people, a lie is a lie and when you make commitments and do not see them through. Trust is lost and the dominos will fall fast once that happens.
Maybe this is you? And if not, Kudos! However, if you are a mistake prone human (all of us) then maybe a few times in your career you have greatly over promised and grossly under delivered. I would even be willing to bet that the intention wasn’t to deceive, but nonetheless the damage is done.
But this can be reversed. Not instantly, but with a little work this can be overcome. Here is what I recommend.
Admission: Face your teams and acknowledge the mistake. Too often leaders want to run and/or hide from their mistakes. Don’t make excuses, but be clear that you recognize where you went wrong.
Genuine Apology: Don’t double up on the first mistake by offering a less than genuine apology. Being sorry isn’t admission of defeat. It revisits the human aspect that whether you are a front line manager or a CEO that people screw up for a plethora of reasons. You are no different.
Request Support: It is a great start to admit your mistakes and apologize. This should bring all but your fiercest critics back to the table. But at this point you have to be clear in asking for support moving forward. Recognize that the first two steps hasn’t guaranteed you anything, so you have to ask for their commitment going forward. This in exchange for your commitment to walk the talk moving forward.
Action Plan: Now what? You have eaten your crow and you are ready to get back in the game. This is where you remember; YOUR ROLE is to lead. So let everyone know what will be done now and why you are confident it is the right course of action.
While nothing is certain, what I can say with confidence is that If you follow these steps, you have a strong chance of getting the ship back on course after one of these transgressions. If you choose to ignore it or aimlessly work through the situation, don’t be surprised if things don’t get better.
I always like to say that people are smarter than you think, so don’t underestimate them!
And about the company I worked for with the “All Talk CEO.” Let’s just say I didn’t stay with the organization too long. I don’t doubt that he recognized some of the errors in his way, but he NEVER faced them. It seemed like his ego wouldn’t let him. Which is why you cannot have a great ego and be a great leader.
As for me, I decided to take the experience and learn from it. Not to say I haven’t overshot and missed, but when I have I am the first to take notice and follow the protocols to regain the trust and support of my team.
What about you? Do you walk your talk?