In this episode of Relationships at Work, communications and leadership nerd (and host) Russel Lolacher highlights the fifth of the seven deadly sins of leadership ecosystems: Ignoring the Gap - The Space Between Words Said and Actions Taken
In this fifth in a series of seven, Russel discusses how the divide between the words we say at work as leaders and the actions we take or don't take to demonstrate them, can have significant effects on our work cultures. He provides real-world examples of what this can look like, the impacts of ignoring this gap, and what we can do as leaders to address this issue.
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Russel Lolacher: Welcome back to Relationships at Work, the leadership mindset guide to creating a workplace we love. I am ever your host, Russell Lolliker, a communications and leadership nerd with a couple of decades of experience in both of those areas. And I also have cultivated some amazing amounts of curiosity on how we can make the workplace a better place.
If you're a leader trying to understand and improve your impact on work culture and the employee experience, well, you're in the right place. Welcome to our weekly minisodes, a quick and valuable bit of information to help shift our leadership mindsets on top of the regular show that comes out every Tuesday.
So for our raw note this week, I'm passing on to you number five. I feel like there should be a drum roll or I should draw out number five in our series on the seven deadly sins of leadership. The topic, ignoring the gap, that space between words said. And actions taken now, as I've said throughout this series, I am not worried about bad leadership.
I'm not even though you hear so many examples of people don't leave jobs, they leave bad leaders. I actually completely disagree with that because I think every organization is going to have bad leaders. It's what those organizations do with that bad leadership that makes people want to leave or stay.
So I'm not worried about bad leadership. I'm worried about leadership ecosystems that allow and perpetuate it. Now, as part of the series, we've tackled previous sins, like Being too busy, fearing conflict, lacking curiosity, or no follow up. You can go back and listen to the last couple episodes, just have been released in the last couple of weeks.
But for this one, let's get into that gap. The one we have to mine between our words and what our actions are, or inactions might be. Say we work for an organization that encourages us through emails to share our thoughts. Say truth to power. Challenge leadership. Now, say we look at the posters around us, or our corporate website that sports the values we're told are of the organization and what we're all about and what each leader exemplifies.
Or say we hear about what it takes to be a great leader. The soft skills, the creation of new leaders, the active listening. These are all amazing things. There's not anything in here that I am not a big supporter of. They are inspiring. This is what we should be aspiring to, if they're true. In a good leadership ecosystem, words, the ones we just heard, meet.
Actions in a bad leadership ecosystem, there's a gap, and the worse the organization is, the larger that gap gets. Now, imagine we as employees believe these words. We believe the things that were told. We believe the things that we read. And then, then maybe those employees act accordingly. I mean, they were told to act like this.
They were told this is what leadership looks like. Maybe they share their feedback on their experiences with bad leaders on how they maybe don't embrace the words are surrounded by. Okay. So you're told truth to power matters. You're told what leadership should look like. Got it. But then when you point it out and nothing happens.
But we were told leadership is supposed to be this or that, and then nothing happens. I actually hear stories like this from people all the time. I think it's one of the biggest signs that a leadership ecosystem is failing. That it's horrible, that it's not working. This is when employees have been promised Action will take place because they assume it will because they're told, well, this is what leadership is.
This is what our culture is. So as an employee, if that's what we see on the walls and in emails, we assume a lot of the times incorrectly that if we don't do these things, Then something will happen. Some correction will be made. So the words we're hearing may not meet the actions that happen because people aren't being punished.
People aren't being corrected. So when words don't meet actions, it erodes trust. It cracks credibility. It kills engagement. It reduces collaboration. It fractures cultures. And it all happens right there in that gap between the words said and the actions done. Taken or never taken. That gap right there is where problematic leaders thrive.
If the words we say don't mean anything, then bad leadership doesn't have a guideline that matters. Or values that are worth anything. Are we the words we say we are or not? Are organizations the values they spout on their website, on their posters, or not? It's a fairly straight question. At least it certainly seems so to our employees, to our teams, to ourselves, to our colleagues.
The answer to this, as good leaders, is pretty simple. Do what we say we will. It's one of the tenets of trust. And if we can't, then we need to explain why. And then explain as leaders what we'll do about it to make sure we can next time. Or explain the conditions that might make that difficult. Employees teams are brilliant.
They get it. They may not agree with it. They may not love it, but context matters. Transparency matters. Honesty matters to close that gap. We have to set examples. We must demonstrate that what we say is what we do, that that gap is shrinking. Or that it eventually may not exist if we do what we're supposed to do right.
So how do we do that? Well, first kind of already said it lead by example. First, we got to focus on us as leaders. If actions speak louder than words, we have to stop just using words and actually demonstrate the behaviors and actions employees expect from their leaders and team members consistently modeling the values, the work ethics, the standards that we promote.
It shows what they look like. So when we follow through on our commitments, deliver on our promises, it sets a positive example for others to follow. Next, we need to communicate clearly and transparently. To bridge the gap, it's crucial to communicate clearly and openly with our teams. We need to be explicit about our intentions, our plans and goals and ensure that our messages are understood by everyone involved when setting expectations or making commitments.
We need to provide realistic and achievable goals. Avoid over promising or making commitments. We can't fulfill that. We know we can't fulfill. And sometimes we say, Oh, yeah, we will. And we know we can't. We have to stop doing that. If circumstances change. We have to keep our teams informed and provide updates as necessary.
Loop them in, make them part of your team. Isn't that the point of inclusivity by maintaining open lines of communication? We can actually minimize misunderstandings and manage expectations. Okay. Last one here, foster accountability. Obviously we start with ourselves. We have to, and to stop perpetuating bad leadership.
We can encourage individuals to take ownership of their own responsibilities and commitments. So, even though it's about ourselves, we need to encourage other leaders to recognize it's about them too. That they have to be empowered and then be accountable. And if they fail, the organization, the leadership, needs to address it promptly and make sure responsibility is taken.
Making plans to ensure that it doesn't happen again. By emphasizing personal responsibility and accountability, we are promoting a culture of reliability and integrity. And that's somewhere people want to work. It's so important that we mind the gap between what we say we'll do and then what we actually do, if we ever do it.
Because if we don't, the great culture exemplifying doesn't actually exist. Or at most, it's failing and will just be lost in the cracks. of that gap. That's it. That is all. That is another raw note mini episode version of Relationships at Work, the leadership mindset guide to creating a workplace we love.
I'm your host, Russell Alaker. Again, thank you so much for joining. Whether you have time for the long episodes or the short ones or all of them, I can't tell you how much gratitude I have about that. And if you enjoy these episodes and the guests we have or the mindset shifts we're trying to provide, uh, please share with maybe just even one other person.
However you share information, uh, when work comes up, when leadership challenges arise and you're like, you know what? I know there's this episode you'd really love to listen to dot, dot, dot. It does nothing but help the show grow and I can't appreciate you more for that. All right, take care.