...Sometimes Use Words
We have all heard the phrase “Practice What You Preach” at some point in our lives. There is even a variation that goes “Preach What You Practice”. The underlying theme is the effective combination of Preaching and Practice. However, Preaching does not always mean words are involved. This takes on added importance the more we talk about business culture and the many ways leaders influence the culture of a business, regardless of whether it is a for-profit or non-profit, small venture or large corporate venture. What leaders say and do to reflect the culture are as important as what they accept what others say and do, whether positive or negative to the culture.
What do people see from your actions? What are you preaching without saying anything? We often forget that every move we make as leaders is under some level of scrutiny. People are watching and judging based on their perception of what a leader should do, or not do. Internally, followers are deciding how much they are going to follow based on what they see. Externally, customers are deciding if they trust and want to do business based on what they see. Constant scrutiny as leaders without saying a word!
However, when we do speak and act, the ante goes up. The effect of our words and actions goes directly to our integrity. While integrity has many definitions, the one I like the most in this context is someone “…having ethical integrity to the extent that the individual's actions, beliefs, methods, measures and principles all derive from a single core group of values.” My own short version is someone’s Beliefs, Words and Actions all tell the same story.
When we speak and act, people are not only judging our words and actions against their own set of values and beliefs, they are also judging the congruence between our own words and our own actions. Anyone in the public eye can vouch for the challenge that might present. We can likely all tell a story or two about a leader in our past or present who made a passionate appeal with their words to do certain things to advance the business. That same person then either did nothing or their actions ran contrary to the words they spoke. This mismatch made them out-of-integrity and eroded their value in the eyes of those who were impacted by the integrity breach. That level of integrity breach is difficult at best to recover from.
“Lead by Example” is a phrase we all have heard many times throughout our careers. In this day and age of transparency and technology that can literally capture our every move, it is even more important that we preserve our integrity and ensure our actions and words are telling the same story!
What are you silently preaching loudly?