Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Leadership

How to Develop More Consistency Between Your Talk and Your Actions

Every individual has the lifetime challenge of lining up thoughts and behavior with values and beliefs. This an especially important challenge for those who would lead. A leader must do more than talk the talk; he or she must also “walk the talk.” Consistency is what “integrity” is all about.

One of the best examples of “walking the talk” came from a company with whom I was working in San Diego.

It was the Christmas get-together for the team of four trainers/consultants. They had finished playfully exchanging gag gifts, when the manager of the group produced three envelopes with “Thanks for the good job you’ve done this year!” written on the outside. Inside were five fake one hundred dollar bills – or so the team thought. Looking more closely, they made the startling discovery that the bills were real! Cindy, the team leader, explained: “I was given a $2000 bonus because of the accomplishments of our department. It was not fair for me to take all the credit and the bonus, so I wanted to share it with the three of you.” And that, my friends, is a bit beyond simply “talking the talk.”

It’s happened too often to count. I’m invited to the executive’s office to discuss the organization’s needs. The telltale comments don’t take long to surface: “We’d like you to come and do a little program on teamwork. You know, to motivate the employees. I tell you, some of them have the worst attitudes.” Or, I’m called in and asked to prop up a sagging improvement effort. “I just don’t know what happened. They were doing pretty well for awhile after we sent them to that seminar.” Key words: “little program”, “they”, and “sent them”. These are dead giveaways. Those leaders who are critical to the success of any improvement effort must be totally committed, highly trained, and well practiced in the daily habits that create an atmosphere of teamwork, innovation, and involvement.

Research has shown that if employees do not return from a training program into a work environment from which the newly learned skills are modeled, coached, and reinforced by leaders, almost all of the new behaviors will have disappeared within one month. Has this ever happened in your organization?

Three Key Strategies for Becoming More Consistent

1. Begin with the heart. What do you really believe…not just in your head, but in your heart? If you find yourself consistently behaving a certain way, do a heart check. Are you in a job or position that calls for you to do things you really don’t believe in? It may be that the mission and values statement of your company calls for a collaborative approach, but you’ve had experiences that have caused you to distrust people. The training program taught you to “lead by serving”, but you secretly believe that employees are basically lazy and won’t perform without your close supervision. Examine your beliefs, because they will ultimately determine your actions.

2. Monitor your actions. Sometimes we intend to behave in helpful and positive ways, but the stresses of multiple demands and difficult people often lead us in other directions. An important step is to zero in on communication or behavior patterns that are in opposition to what we want, watching how these play out in the situations of our lives. Making written records of these is a strategy that research has shown immediately changes behavior. Raise your awareness of inconsistencies by self monitoring.

3. Make a habit change plans, and stick to them. Someone wisely said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A commitment to change without a plan is doomed to failure. Take the information you gained about how, when, and where you have the most trouble, and use it to create alternate actions you can use in those situations.

4. Don’t give up! Recognize that you’ll make mistakes and have setbacks; this is normal. Those who succeed in developing consistency in beliefs, talk, and action are those who persist. They learn from mistakes, and begin again. They are rewarded with the respect and trust of others.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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