People watch what you do, not what you say

If you are a leader, people watch what you do, more than what you say. They know that where you put your focus, and the actions you take, speak much louder than words.
  • You may say you have an open door policy, but if you are working on your computer while they are talking, the message will be: “I’m too busy to talk to you,” or, “This is more important than you are.”
  • You may attend meetings, but if you are doing “the cell phone prayer” under the table, you are really conveying that the meeting isn’t important and what people are saying doesn’t matter to you.
  • If you want to create a healthy culture and you give speeches about employees being “our most important asset,” but you never get out of your office to meet and talk with the front line people who really do the work, your words will be hollow.
  • If you want people to meet their deadlines and do their best work, but you don’t follow up or give them straight feedback when they don’t perform the way you expect, they will assume you have lower standards.
  • If you tell your direct reports you want them to work as a team, but you only meet with them one-on-one, or not at all, they will likely be working toward their own goals, rather than trying to help the team.
  • If you expect your direct reports to have “the big picture” but you don’t share much information about the financials, the strategy or the marketplace, they won’t have the context in which to make decisions that will be good for the organization.
  • If you tell people you want them to communicate better, but you talk more than you listen and jump to conclusions, you will be the biggest barrier to improved communications.
  • If you think telling your direct reports how to do something is the best way to coach them, you have underestimated the power of asking good questions, to help them discover new approaches.
  • If you think being a good leader means you should be in meetings all day, rethink how you allocate your time. Dedicated one-on-one time is fundamental for good leadership.
  • If you think you are so valuable that you have to be involved deeply in the work your team is doing, reconsider. You are likely to be more of a block than a benefit. As long as they get results, give them autonomy to approach work in their own way.
  • If you feel that you must be the one who does all the presentations to senior management, you will miss the benefits of giving your team visibility and growth experiences. You will also look like you can’t share credit.
  • If you expect others to receive your corrective feedback but aren’t receptive when someone pushes back or attempts to give you some advice about a different approach, you will look insecure and miss an opportunity to create a culture of honesty and learning.  

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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