Leaders Have to Walk the Talk

Most leaders we know of are not the type to listen to their own advice, I have been a leader for over 15 year and am guilty of this. We constantly hear that we need to reinvent the company and we have to find ways to get the entire workforce living and demonstrating the core values through their decisions and actions, but most of us leaders would rather not and would rather just mouth the words to our employees.

Employees expectations

A lot of employees are not motivated to live up to the company’s values because their own leaders don’t lead by example. They constantly hear that they need to do this, they need to do that, they need to be this, they need to be that. But this embodiment is greatly lacking in upper management. There are certain skills that every manager or professional needs.

Take the banks for example. Upper management is constantly telling their employees to be honest and conduct themselves in utmost integrity to preserve the reputation of the bank. However, the leaders themselves don’t conduct themselves in this manner and they develop targets that does not resonate with conducting oneself with honesty and integrity. They make it a focus that targets are met at all costs. This tells the employees that even though the bank’s values are to conduct themselves with honesty and integrity, they don’t actually have to do so, just as long as targets are met. Some companies even send their management personnel to special leadership and management training – (course information here) to try and improve the company’s bottom line, but not on employee relations.

Open the channels of communication

As Reliant’s senior leaders opened the channels of communication, people throughout the ranks of the organization began to emulate their behavior. For example, Mike Kuznar, the director of Reliant’s Customer Care group, held a series of Meals with Mike, modeled after the Tuesday Talks. Learn the basics of leadership by going to the website or you can learn the basics of managing staff by going to this website. 

The meals were open to any member of the customer service team. Mike fielded their tough questions and gave frank answers. For employees who were anxious about losing their jobs, this was an opportunity to learn about the company’s performance at the local level. Mike helped them understand how their everyday work fit into the bigger picture of the company’s challenges. In the end, Reliant survived. Its share price bounced back. The company retained most of its customers. And the informal organization grew stronger than ever. In a turnaround like Reliant’s, leaders are tempted to rely on formal mechanisms and measures. They want to cut costs, keep tight control, deliver messages and directives from the top. Reliant did all these things, but its leaders differ from their counterparts at other companies in that they complemented the necessary formal actions with a values-driven effort that bolstered important and visible behaviors throughout the informal organization and accelerated its recovery. Unfortunately, Reliant’s challenges did not end after the turnaround. As the company geared up for growth, it was struck by a perfect storm of external factors beyond anyone’s control. In 2008, Hurricane Ike destroyed Galveston, one of Reliant’s major markets. Later that year, the global credit crisis struck, wiping out critical financial support that Reliant needed in the wake of Ike.

At last, in 2009, Reliant was bought by NRG Energy. None of this, however, negates the turnaround accomplishment that preceded it. Ultimately, the company’s recovery story is one of success. Its ability to survive the tremendous challenges it faced by using values as a driving force in the journey sets it apart from companies that espouse values but do not live them. Learn about how to run your own business by studying this education program

How would leaders walk the walk?

Managers have to be more aware of their actions and speech. Everything they do and say are watched and listened to intently by others around them and will influence the way the team functions.

Managers should also try to do the work of their employees so that they understand the challenges their employees face and can develop policies and processes that can help and motivate the employees to embody the company’s values.

Managers should also have regular catch-ups with their teams and hold an open forum for employees to share their thoughts and opinions. They should not be judgemental and should think of ways to address their concerns and have idea-sharing conversations instead of being highly critical of them.

Categories: Business