How many times as leaders have you thought, “Well, that’s not what I intended to do?” If we’re true to ourselves, we’ll admit that on occasion, we fall short in trying to match our words with our deeds.
Trust. It’s the number one issue in the breakdown of any relationship. Parent – Child. Husband – Wife. Or Leader-Follower. And one of the most frequent culprits behind a loss of trust is the inability to follow through on promises or statements with aligned action.
For transformational leaders (or those aspiring to be transformational), this can be a huge problem. Authenticity and trust go hand-in-hand. When one goes south, the other quickly follows. And sometimes it’s inevitable, but not most of the time.
So, how does a leader reduce or eliminate the Say-Do Gap? Clearly, it’s easier said than done, but by focusing on both the message and the attitudes is key.
1) Clarity of Message – Ensure the message you send to your followers is accurate with both your intended direction and within your power to control. Don’t make empty promises or sugar-coat problems simply for the sake of morale. Nothing sinks morale faster than the realization that a leader has spun their message.
2) Continuous Reflection – As a leader, you should be constantly gauging your decisions and actions against the goals and vision for your area. Keeping a copy of those goals and visions in front of you is a good strategy for ensuring they are top of mind when moving forward with projects.
3) Acknowledge Deviations – When situations dictate a departure from the aforementioned message or plan, ensure you proceed with as much transparency as possible. That means understanding the need to fully explain why your actions may not be aligned with the original message. Employees are adults, and most appreciate being treated as such. And they understand when occasional mid-course corrections are needed. Don’t underestimate their ability to understand.
4) Seek Feedback – Whenever a major decision is made, leaders should take some time after the fact (within a month, at the very least) to seek inputs from followers as to the possible perceptions of a Say-Do Gap. And knowing that you will need to seek such feedback will in and of itself help you guard against unknowingly committing the Say-Do Gap sin!
When leaders pay attention to the alignment of their words and deeds, attempting to guard against any gaps, and seeking rational buy-in when they must deviate from established plans, they project an air of authenticity. And in that authenticity are the seeds of long-standing trust….and transformational leadership.