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Walk your talk: It’s the magic key to leadership success

29 September 2014 05:39 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


In his excellent book, ‘Leading at a Higher Level’, Ken Blanchard writes, “It is estimated that a leader’s actions are at least three times as important as what he or she says.”

“The minute that associates or colleagues sense that their leader is not committed or is acting inconsistently with the desired behaviours of the change,” Blanchard continues, “they will no longer commit themselves to the effort.”

When reflected on Blanchard’s words, it becomes obvious why many organisations that have attempted changes in the past few years, those efforts simply didn’t
go anywhere.

In other words, followers want to know the overall willingness of their compelling leaders to:

  • Practice and apply what they’ve learned to their everyday jobs.
  • Humble them to go through training,
  • Model the behaviours they want,
  • Display some vulnerability to others and
  • No cherry-picking (meaning select only the ones you like)

As an example: once this writer participated as a guest observer in a training programme of a mid-sized organisation. Director Human Resources assured the organisers that the corporate will was high and the CEO himself would attend the training along with the employees.

The CEO did attend.  Unfortunately, he sat at the back of the room, doing paperwork and checking his BlackBerry the entire time. You can imagine what kind of silent message he sent to his workforce about the importance of coaching and training.

When asked by the presenter at the end of the session, the CEO for his impressions of the importance of coaching his leaders, he said that he was “not paid to coach”. Unknown to him, many of his direct subordinates had highly recommended the CEO do the training: they felt he had a blind spot that could be mended if he could just take the time to open himself up to it.




A compelling leader’s behaviour has an impact on everyone around them and an effective leader is one who inspires his team by showing the way with his own actions. This can be a powerful realisation if, for example, the leader is turning up on time for meetings and showing he is open to receiving feedback, his people will do the same.

A compelling leader always will ‘walk his talk’ to enable the organisation change and improve. He will take the power away from the oft-repeated employee complaint that leaders don’t walk their talk?

So, if you want to become a compelling leader, start today to learn how to walk your talk. It’s the shortest journey to empower change and the work environment
you desire.

The most important tip comes first. If you do this first action well, the rest will follow more naturally. If the ideas you are promoting are congruent with your core beliefs and values, these actions will come easily, too. Therefore, start with a deep understanding of ‘why’ you want to see the change or improvement, and what change or improvement you want to see. Make certain it is congruent with what you deeply believe. Then, understand and follow these guidelines.

Model the behaviour you want to see from others. There is nothing more powerful for employees than observing the ‘big bosses’ do the actions or behaviours they are requesting from others. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Become the change you wish to see in the world.” And, it will happen.

If you make a rule or design a process, follow it, until you decide to change it. Why would employees follow the rules if the rule
makers don’t?
Act as if you are part of the team, not always the head of it. Dig in and do actual work, too. People will appreciate that you are personally knowledgeable about the effort needed to get the work done. They will trust your leadership because you have undergone their experience.

Help people achieve the goals that are important to them, as well as the goals that are important to you. Make sure there is something for each of you that will result from the effort and work.

Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t make rash promises that you can’t keep. People want to trust you and your leadership.
Build commitment to your organisation’s big goal. (You do have a big, overarching goal, don’t you?) Other than to make money, why does your organisation exist?
Use every possible communication tool to build commitment and support for the big goal, your organisation’s values and the culture you want to create. This includes what you discuss at meetings, in your corporate blog, on your Intranet, in social media and so forth.

Hold strategic conversations with people so people are clear about expectations and direction. Hold strategic conversations with as many groups as you can. In order to build internal confidence, stimulate cross-boundary cooperation and spark new-product speed to market.

Ask senior managers to police themselves. They must provide feedback to each other when they fail to walk their talk. It is not up to the second level managers and other employees to point out inconsistencies. Senior managers must be accountable to each other for their own behaviour.

Most important step in walking the talk is for the leader to work with his team to identify the organisation’s values and standards and communicate them clearly. Then it’s simply a matter of ensuring that the actions of everyone in authority match up. People will be inspired if they experience total harmony between what their leaders are saying and what they can see them doing day-to-day.

But it’s not just about how the leader relates to the organisation. The team needs to feel how this benefits them. If the management team has identified ways to improve its culture, then it’s vital it follows through on its actions – and it’s down to the leader to be the face of those changes.






Managing time

Walking the talk is crucial to team morale and motivation, yet so often it can take a back seat to other more ‘pressing’ tasks. Yet, while it’s easily done, those discrepancies between talk and action can become very destructive very quickly.

Much of this can be cured with effective time management. Compelling leaders should take personal responsibility for how they use their time: to cut down on the meetings they attend and to prioritise their tasks – redirecting time towards empowering their team instead. It may help for leaders to log their regular distractions as well as what causes procrastination and what effect this all has on the typical workday.

The 80/20 rule states that the relationship between input and output is rarely, if ever, balanced: only 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of your results. The key to walking the talk may well be to focus on the 20 percent, in order to make the most effective use of your time







In 1513, Machiavelli wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the hostility of all who would profit by the preservation of the old system and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.”
Given these thoughts from Machiavelli - true for centuries - provide leadership through walking your talk. Incorporate these tips and behaviours to ensure the success of your organisation. ‘Walk your talk’.

(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at [email protected])



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