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Talk is cheap: Why leaders must act with intention

Few leaders understand the negative impact of hollow words and broken promises. Talk is cheap and failure to walk the talk is even cheaper and often a contributing factor to why leaders and managers fail to deliver business results they stretched for.

Bond…my word is my bond…

Or is it? Over the past 15 months I have shared with you the importance of trust, authenticity and other important aspects of leadership. This month I would like to share the secret ‘glue’ that can hold all of these themes together and create a difference in your business and personal life. The secret glue is language.The degree of the glue’s stickiness resides in the power of your word choice. What do you mean?, I hear you ask.

I recently read an article called The Power of Words by Harriet Rubin (31 December 1998). Whilst written more than a decade ago the content is more relevant today than ever before, as I think we have lost the ability to communicate as leaders in a clear, directional and motivational way. The Power of Words is about Fernando Flores, a former Chilean Minister for Finance, political prisoner and now internationally renowned business coach. The entire premise of this article is about how he coaches executives to speak and act with intention if they want extraordinary business results.

Few leaders understand the negative impact of hollow words and broken promises. Talk is cheap and failure to walk the talk is even cheaper and often a contributing factor to why executives fail to deliver business results that they stretched for. The words in themselves are full of good intention, which is why Flores talks about the importance of speaking with intention, and then your actions take on a new meaning and purpose. This action needs to be swift i.e. delivered shortly after the words of your message are shared. They also need to be aligned to everything the organisation is focusing on and reinforced where possible to ensure they are clearly understood and every action taken in the organisation delivers positive outcomes towards achieving them.

Trust is the key and the foundation of all endeavours. If there is no trust there will never be a successful outcome to follow, just a trail of broken promises. Eventually this will lead to a downward spiral in morale; a lack of caring will start to creep in and eventually your organisational cultural will be unrecognisable. The upside to this demise according to Flores is ‘despair produces reality’. If it is real in your mind it can be dealt with in reality – a true known.

Let’s go back to the concept of words. Words or language are only a portion of the message or information. Commitment is also of the upmost importance as it personalises a viewpoint.  Flores talks about ‘action language’ to obtain impact on an outcome. He believes in order to transform yourself you need to be able to ‘speak in language that promises action’, however to do that you must be able to work on the truth aspect in order to generate commitments, which is all based on trust. In other words truth equals trust and if you hide behind hypocrisy or even half-truths it will blind you from opportunity or future possibilities.

When you talk, indicate your intended action and not purely your desire to make a difference. You must have conviction in your agenda so that the outcomes that you are seeking to achieve will be possible. Desire alone does not lead to success, action does. Failure to act can lead to the disconnection, disenchantment and disengagement of your employees and ultimately your customers.

President Barack Obama once said …’Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek’. This is a call to action for leaders to get into the game of leading.

So think about how you will put energy and emotion into your story and how you will demonstrate your total commitment. In the words of Flores ‘invent a promise you are obliged to keep’ and produce it as a story because the ‘value lies in creating a new possibility’.  Perhaps it is time to dig deep to find the courage to put your own identity on the line, in order to create a bigger future than the one you are currently living – that is your work and your personal life.

So how compelling is the power of your word? Not compelling enough? Then what are you going to start to do differently so your word resonates with your employees, stakeholders and customers?

Arndria Seymour

Arndria Seymour

Arndria Seymour is a commercially oriented senior learning/organisational development professional. She has a proven track record in crafting and executing people development related strategies aligned to achieving business goals across the finance sector domestically and internationally over the past 30 years. Arndria is the founder of Amicii, which is a premium service orientated organisation which supports the personal growth and transformation of people.

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