Continuing our investigation of Value Based Leadership, why is it important for leaders to show not just say?

With so many waves of different fads in leadership theory, it is no wonder that most people in most businesses are skeptical. Let’s be honest, they’ve heard great things about CRM, Data-Led, Customer-Centric & Innovation. Yet they too often look around and little appears to have changed.

That is why I totally agree with a plea from guest blogger, Annette Franz, that today’s leaders need to show not just say. Otherwise Values Based Leadership will be discredited as yet another passing fashion.

You may recall that Annette is an experienced CX leader who has previously shared with us on both VoC programmes and achieving data-driven success. So, over to Annette to share what such authenticity means in practice…

How do leaders drive (lasting) change?

Recently, I enjoyed spending a few days in Vegas, speaking and networking at Fiserv’s annual client Forum. The keynote on the second day of the event was Troy Aikman, who was interviewed by Fiserv’s CEO Jeff Yabuki about sports, of course, as well as about leadership and business.

One of the stories that Troy shared resonated with me, because it’s exactly the kind of thing that I talk about when it comes to driving lasting change. Leaders can’t just talk the talk; they must walk the walk.

The story of walking the walk

Troy is a sharp-dressed man; when it comes to work/business, he is always dressed in a suit. After he bought his first car dealership, he walked in and noticed that all of the sales guys were dressed casual, in polo shirts and slacks.

He wanted them to dress nicer, but he didn’t want to come into his new business and be a hard nose right away. So, he didn’t say anything. Instead, he just showed up at the dealership every day in a suit.

By the end of the first week, a couple of the guys had upgraded their attire, and by the end of the second week, all of them were dressed in suits. And he never said a word!

It’s a great reminder that you can drive change – lasting change – when you do a few simple, yet often forgotten, things. Troy didn’t talk about any conversations he had with the staff after the two weeks, but I can only imagine he applauded their actions.

4 key elements of Show not just Say

(1) Communicate the change

Use a variety of vehicles and media. Share the change vision. Tell the change story. Let employees know what is changing, why it’s changing, how it will impact them and what they do (differently) on a daily basis.

Tell them how they will be involved. If no one knows what the change is or why it’s taking place, then they’ll ignore it. They certainly won’t want to be a part of it.

(2) Involve employees in the change process

Rather than forcing change on them. If they’re involved, the solutions may be richer because they have other perspectives and experiences that the decision-making leader may not have.

Better yet, present them (spoke or unspoken, as was the case with Troy) with a problem or a situation. Let them come to the conclusion themselves. If they believe it was their own idea, it’ll stick; they’ll own it.

(3) Lead by example, model the change

It’s important that executives lead by example and model the change that they wish to see from their employees.

If they don’t live the change, why should employees? If your CEO doesn’t demonstrate commitment to the transformation by being the role model for how to deliver a great experience, it won’t happen. If she doesn’t live the core values, why should you? Actions always speak louder than words.

(4) Recognize the right behaviours

Reinforce them with incentives, promotions, metrics, and more. Reinforcing the behaviours, actions, and changes that you want to see is more powerful than talking about them, especially when combined with modeling them.

You can Show not just Say

Yes, change is hard. But it’s not impossible. These four things are important and work together. Just remember this: leaders can’t expect to see change happen if all they do is talk about the changes but don’t do things differently themselves.

Case in point: if you’re talking about transforming your culture to one that is customer-centric, yet you continue to push staff to make their quarterly numbers and reinforce behaviors that speak to a focus on growth at all cost – sans focusing on the customer experience – then you’re not walking the walk. Talk is cheap.

Do you?

I recognise a lot of that wisdom may sound like “motherhood and apple pie“. Most leaders know they should be doing that already, right?

Stop a moment though and ask yourself, do I do it? As Annette rightly challenges us, talk is cheap. Take some time now to reflect on what you want to do, to ensure your team see the behaviour you want, from you.