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  • Karen Gregory


It really doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ve heard this famous cliché: actions speak louder than words. I can confidently say I’ve heard it several million times to this point in my lifetime. I hope that in life and in leadership this cliché touches you deep inside and you not only believe in it but you live and breathe it.

Your actions have a dramatic effect on your credibility, on your reputation, and on your success. And this list is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on for days about how not doing what you say you are going to do affects the perception others have of you and how that ultimately determines your success/failure.

Allow me to illustrate with some examples:

1. You delegate a project to one of your reports because they have asked for more responsibility. You agree and have found a task that will help them grow in their experience and at the same time add value to the department. You’ve delegated, you explained the task, you’ve even trained the individual, but you can’t let go and you are constantly involving yourself in the task. In this example, it doesn’t matter that you said you agreed the employee was ready to grow, your actions proved you didn’t believe they were ready.

2. How about handling of time off/tardiness? In either case if you hold your people accountable to a standard, say a two week notice of time off, you also must meet that standard. If tardiness is unacceptable, it is also unacceptable for you. Do not show hypocrisy by allowing yourself to break company policy if others are not allowed to break company policy (and this goes for all company policies because as a leader all company policy become your words). Doing so again shows your actions do not equal your words.

3. A personal “least favorite” example because I hear it all the time. If you have a voice message, or email response, that says something like this, “Please leave a message and I will return your call….” then make it a practice to set aside time to make those return calls (even the ones you don’t deem important). Why? Because you said you would. That’s the whole idea behind the action you promised and the action you take.

Three examples are enough for you to get the idea. Why would I say “actions speak louder than words” determine your success? Because when you are known to promise to act a certain way (or do a certain thing) and then you fail to follow through, then you become known as someone who is unreliable, someone who always has excuses, someone who can’t be counted on. I don’t hire people like that. I don’t trust people like that. And if I had to guess, I’d say you feel the same way I do.

How do you know if you’re one of these people? Sometimes it’s hard to recognize things in ourselves. Do you notice people avoiding you? Do you have a hard time motivating employees? Do you have a high turnover rate? Do people refrain from giving you their ideas or opinions? Do you have “problem child” employees? Is your team inefficient? While this is just a small list of indicators, if you can answer yes to any of these questions your actions may not match your words.

Take some time to reflect on whether you make promises you don’t keep, on whether you really are the type of person who does what they say they will do, because if you find yourself inconsistent in this area you’ve got work to do and you may need to enlist the help of others (without fear of repercussion) because believe it or not there are times you don’t see your contradiction of actions. But others do.

Leadership is never easy, we are not perfect, and we should always be a work in progress. Make the commitment to continually improve your leadership skills. You can’t have high expectations of your employees if you don’t have high expectations of yourself. A good place to start is to make sure your actions speak louder than your words.


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