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Finding Alignment Between Words and Actions

It has been said that “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” In leadership, knowing this is critical. People thrive in consistency. Inconsistency breeds fear and, ultimately, failure. Great leaders know this and they live it out every day. They have an unbreakable commitment to following through on everything they say and intend to do.

A Successful Leadership Soup

When Douglas Conant became the CEO of Campbell’s soup in 2000, the company was in free fall. Employee engagement was in the cellar. The facilities in Camden, New Jersey looked like a prison, even down to having razor wire around the perimeter. It was a lousy place to work and all of the numbers showed it.

Conant set out to fix it all. But first he would do a novel thing for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He bought a new pair of walking shoes and a pedometer and started walking all around the grounds. He took the time to speak with every employee and hear them out. On daily constitutionals he learned a great deal about what had gone on before he got there. He heard legitimate complaints and promised to fix them.

Ten years later, Campbell’s had the highest engagement scores of any organization ever measured by The Gallup Organization. The company was profitable and strong. When Conant announced his retirement, there were tears. He would be sorely missed.

What happened here? Very simply, Conant kept his promises. Every single one of them. He held himself accountable to follow his words with actions that made a difference.

That’s how great leadership works. People follow those kinds of leaders because they know they are cared for and that they matter more than their contribution to the bottom, line.

Did I Mention This Is Hard?

This kind of consistency in how you communicate principles, how you act them out, and how you hold people accountable to them will eventually shift your culture to where you want it to be. While this is happening, even during the most difficult aspects of it, you will begin to see a difference in your people and in yourself. The stress will decrease. People won’t see you as some kind of taskmaster, but as someone who’s on their side, wanting them to join you in shared success.

They will feel known, heard, and valued. They’ll know you’re for them—not for your own personal agenda or an unspoken company agenda. Everything is on the table and there is no ambiguity or uncertainty.

This is hard. It really is. I know I’m making it sound simple, but when you put it into action, you’ll realize how difficult it can be to get it right every single time for every single person every single day. It can be done, though.

Find Your Reason to Commit

Like all difficult things, you need a big reason to commit to it.  For me, the foundation of leadership has to come out of loving other people. Hopefully, it’s the same for you. Caring about others will propel you through the difficult process of cultivating culture. Remember that you are doing this to serve people who have come to your company and are looking to you for leadership. You are responsible for their success on every level. Look around you at your team and remind yourself that you have it within you to make it possible for them to feel fulfilled at work. That is an awesome responsibility, and you can do it.

Find alignment between your words and actions. As you keep doing it, you’ll hear from your employees. They’ll communicate to you how they feel known, heard, and valued, and that their work matters. They’ll communicate it to you nonverbally, too, with the commitment, dedication, and passion they bring to their roles.


Written by Chris Meroff.

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Chris Meroff
Chris Meroff has spent more than 25 years supporting leaders in education at both the campus and district levels. Through his work in 17 states and across thousands of school districts, he’s seen firsthand the frustration administrators feel when their efforts don’t produce the alignment they desire. He’s made a career of testing new leadership ideas to see what works—and what doesn’t—in service-oriented leadership. His business, Alignment Leadership Consulting, exists to teach leaders how they can boldly pursue a workplace culture that prioritizes employee fulfillment. Chris Meroff is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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