I grew up with the idea that your words matter. I was taught to be a man of my word, and that the things I say can either build people up, or tear them down. I did not always see this modeled around me except in my Mother, who often took time to teach me how to live with honesty and integrity, and quietly modeled it for our family to see.
When I got into the business world, I quickly learned that you can get a lot more done, win more deals, and make life easier for yourself if you “bent the truth” a bit. I watched as people around me followed this method to get where they wanted to go, but never seemed to care if they were seen as dishonest or untrustworthy – as long as they were winning.
In today’s world, it often seems you can do and say whatever you want, as long as you are seen as meaning well, having a higher goal, or can apologize afterward. BUT words do matter, and the reputation you build is the one you have to live with. The power of words can vary depending on who is saying them, and the reputation that person has.
Its easy to point a finger at our Government Leaders and accuse them of saying and doing whatever they need to, in order to get things done. Regardless of your political conviction, we can all agree that we have lost trust in our leaders. Gallop has seen a decline in the trust of our leaders over the years and you can see the slide by clicking on the photo above.
The reality is that our business leaders do the same thing. We make promises we can’t keep, and change our positions when things get tough. We will make decisions that drastically affect the lives of others as means to an end that WE feel is more important. Then we are surprised when our employees lose trust in us, refuse to be fully engaged, or leave to go somewhere else – anywhere else!
Our Actions Speak Louder than Words, so if you want to be the Owner, CEO, or President that others can trust, you need to make sure you keep them both in alignment. Your team members, customers, partners, suppliers, and the community at large will judge you to see if you are worthy of following, or if you will remain that lone nut on the hill. (refer to our blog on building great followers.)
Here are some ways you can work to align your words with your actions.
Be slow to speak and keep your cool – It seems ridiculous that this even has to be said, but yelling at employees de-motivates them and never accomplishes the real goal. Saying that you value your team, and then yelling at them, will never work. Read this article in Inc. Magazine for some good advice if you struggle with this.
Listen more than you talk – Your team has a lot to offer you, if you will only listen. Train yourself to ask “What do you think” before automatically giving an answer. This action shows you value your team, and will empower your employees to lead with confidence, and eventually stop asking you so many questions. Everybody wins!
Only say things you would want the entire world to hear – You can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so always think carefully about what you say. In a world where news travels instantly and globally to the thousands of outlets voraciously hungry for content, your private whisper or even a simple post on your blog, can end up on CNN 24 hours later, so make very sure you’re certain about what you want to say before you say it.
Hold yourself Accountable – We all need the input of others we respect, who can candidly remind us when we get off track. Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas provides a place where experienced top executives meet monthly to sharpen each other, and get the kind of honest input that employees will not give us.
Let your Words be your Guide – Most companies make a Mission and Vision Statement to hang on the wall, and then leave it behind. When taking a course of action, ask yourself if this follows the words you put out as the banner of who you are, and only do things that will live out what you SAY you are all about.
We have plenty of examples of people who are found out to be something other than what they presented themselves to be. People like cyclist Lance Armstrong, golfer Tiger Woods, former Presidential candidate John Edwards, former CIA Director David Petraeus, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, and former Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eliot Spitzer, and Rod Blagojevich.
The are many more names we can mention, but what I don’t want to see is YOUR name added to the list in the future. Don’t fool yourself, you and I are just a couple of bad decisions away from ruining our lives, our families, and our companies. Let me close with the words from an article entitled When Leaders Flame Out:
“When we allow our leaders to behave badly, when we tolerate intolerable behavior, and when we refuse to stand for something better, we inadvertently give ourselves a similar pass. We sanction our own lowered standards. We let ourselves off the hook, and it is a long way down…
If we want better leadership from our leaders, we must first be better leaders of ourselves.”
You ARE a great leader. Come be a part of the Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas and encourage other leaders to let their words match their actions, as they lead with excellence. Contact us at Info@REFDallas.com or (469) 791 – 0455.