“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another” begins the Declaration of Independence. It ends with, “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America . . . mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
The colonies were free! Well, not quite. There was still the pesky problem that England didn’t want the colonies to be free. “Words are cheap.” The Declaration of Independence is a magnificent document. However, announcing independence didn’t gain it. Winning the Revolutionary War did. Words can support and inspire action, but action must be taken!
Change the scene to the contemporary American workplace. Imagine a manager who needs to lead a group to change their behavior from inconsistent and untrustworthy to consistent and trustworthy. How would that manager go about doing that? A speech? Demand the necessary changes and reprimand when they don’t happen? When we want to change behavior, managers must model by exaggeration and consistency. Exaggeration brings the action to the attention of others. Consistency says this action is important and it will be used every time.
So if we managers want employees to be trustworthy, we have to be trustworthy. If we want employees to be consistently on time with quality services and products, we have to be have to be consistently on time with quality services and products. What are managers’ quality services and products? Managing employees and the work of the group. Specifically, that means being trustworthy and consistent in every interaction with every employee.
If we haven’t been consistent and trustworthy in the past, it may take employees a while to trust us. A recent Dilbert cartoon illustrated this fact when the pointy-haired boss gave positive feedback to an employee. The employee was surprise and skeptical about what the boss was trying to do. That kind of skepticism can be overcome by consistency. We have to keep doing the right thing so employees believe we will consistently act that way. At the point of belief, we become role models for that behavior.
We will make mistakes, be inconsistent and untrustworthy, because we’re human. How such mistakes are handled are also modeling opportunities. Admitting a mistake and getting back on track models at least two other important behaviors: humility and perseverance.
Accept the challenge: Take action immediately!