Sometimes as leaders we are in danger of saying one thing but doing another- without even being aware of it!
I was once visiting a business for the first time. The management team were going through a big stack of PowerPoint slides to explain the business to me. It was the HR Director's turn and he was busy extolling their commitment to their people and how they were their most important asset. So far so good.
At one of the breaks I went off in search of the washrooms. The meeting room we were using was adjacent to the fulfilment centre, where orders were picked, packed and dispatched to customers. I got a bit lost and found myself in the men's room that served the folks in the fulfilment centre. Disturbingly, it was dirty, with no soap and in a very poor state of repair.
I returned to the meeting room where the HR Director was about to resume his presentation. I asked him to stop and explained that unfortunately the management team were guilty of saying one thing but doing another. You could have heard a pin drop- this was my first visit after all! I asked the team to follow me and took them back to the washroom I had just visited, where I invited them to reconcile what I had been told with the squalid conditions that their people had to put up with.
Hats off to them- they took it very well and didn't try and wriggle their way out of the problem. We then had an interesting discussion about the importance of walking the walk as well as talking the talk. I hope they forgave my rather blunt illustration.
I guess the key lesson is to not allow yourself to get trapped in your own clouded view of what's really going on. Put yourself in the shoes of those you are responsible for and you may get a very different perspective. Get out there!
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