In our last two posts (“Be Thoughtful About Your Message” and “Be Thoughtful About Your Message, Part 2“) we recounted an experience we had with an online, professional group and its leadership. In short, there had been much discussion and an explicit commitment to creating transparency among the leaders and the group. When the originator of the group, Mark, publicly disagreed with the leader, Anton, on how things were going, Anton deleted Mark’s communication and didn’t mention it to the group. When we inquired about the missing communication Anton simply stated, “We’re being transparent about everything except this…” and brushed the incident aside without acknowledging the dissonance between his words and his actions.
This experience is one that many people have on a regular basis – the experience of the words and the actions of a leader, boss, parent, partner or friend, not being aligned. When this occurs, the first response is often one of, “I can’t trust this person.” This, in itself, is problematic for relationships but what is more problematic is that as the dissonance between words and actions goes unexplained, others soon come to trust that “what is said” and “what is done” are not the same. They come to trust that there is information that is not being shared and they learn to interact cautiously.
The tragedy in this scenario lies with those leaders, bosses, partners, etc. who genuinely had no intention of being incongruent. When Anton said he was committed to transparency, he probably fully intended to be transparent. But then something happened that took Anton by surprise and instead of dealing with the issue head-on, he pulled it from view. In the short term, pulling it from view seemed to solve the problem (there was no longer a visible complaint about the group’s direction) but it created a more erosive problem by sabotaging the belief in his commitment to transparency.
As coaches, we know how hard it can be for leaders to address, head-on, the issues that challenge their progress or threaten to interrupt the status quo. Yet, as we have seen over and over, that is precisely when working through the issue with the group matters most. You see, the consequences of misalignment between your words and your actions are many, including that it undermines confidence and success over the long haul.
This week, we’d encourage you to reread the two previous posts and then to do an inventory of your relationships. Are there people who have come to trust you in ways that you wish were different? Do you wish your staff believed you when you talked to them about the future? Do you long for a relationship where you and your partner work together to build a better life? Do you want a deeply connected relationship with your kids? If so, be certain that what you are saying and doing are closely aligned. Otherwise, they will come to trust you deeply (knowing that what you say and do are not aligned) and distance quickly.