One of my favorite sayings is: “I’ll hear what you say, but I’ll trust what you do.” I think this is absolutely brilliant. You should use it when you want to feel real smart and savvy as a leader. I first heard it used by college football coach Jerry Kill at the University of Minnesota when he was giving a motivational talk to a room full of business leaders. He was explaining how he communicates and relates to his players. In other words, you can talk all you want about what you are about to do, what you intend to do, and what you promise to do. However, the only way to truly evaluate you as a player and a person is by watching what you actually do. How you operate tells the story about who you really are.
As you know, I am always thinking. This statement is normally used by a leader talking to a subordinate. They’re saying that they’re watching you and will let you know how you’re doing. If I don’t like something you are doing or how you are doing it, I will be sure to stop you dead in your tracks to correct you. Leaders have such a nice seat up on the mountain where everyone comes and kisses our pinky rings and we give them the lay of the land. We make the decisions and everyone waits for us to bark orders. We even get to go home and talk about them to whoever wants to listen. “My office manager just doesn’t get it. My sales manager needs to be more organized. My legal department is too technical.” Blah, blah, blah.
Let’s think about this statement again: “I’ll hear what you say, but I’ll trust what you do.” Can’t your subordinates use that toward you as well? One thing I want to impress upon any leader is that everyone is watching you with a critical eye all of the time. They will hear what you say, but they will trust what you do. Everyone you lead wants to know if you practice what you preach, so here are a few questions for you to make sure you are not the subject of pillow talk. Think about it: we have all had an idiot for a boss, right? Are you someone’s boss right now? If the answer is yes, this means you could be someone’s idiot. Here is what leaders need to be mindful of.
1. Integrity- Employees and the people you lead pick up on your heart every time you speak. Do you do the right thing at all times? If you cut corners and cheat, you are sending a message to everyone you lead that it is ok to cheat and be unethical.
2. Work ethic- Are you working as hard as you expect others to work? Do you crack the whip and then sit back and drink lemonade all day? Make sure you preach hard work and also model hard work.
3. Commit to excellence- Is average okay? If you want to build a culture of excellence, make sure you model e.xcellence. If average is okay for you, it will be okay for everyone.
4. Look like the leader- Everyone you lead needs to have confidence in you as a leader if you want them to follow you. It helps for you to look the part to pass the eyeball test. Most people never think about personal appearance, but it is real. Studies show that the better you look and dress, the more money you make.
Why should you do all of this? Because everyone is watching you.