Provision #703: Actions Matter

Laser Provision

Actions speak louder than words. There may be no more familiar mantra when it comes to trust, integrity, and transparency. If we say one thing and do another, people will remember what we do and forget what we say. Actions, especially those that are repeated and reinforced, create a primary impression when it comes to our character and commitments. Understanding this dynamic, leaders are careful to align our words and actions. We also make sure that our actions reflect our values. If we hope to empower our people, for example, then micromanaging undercuts our leadership. Want to learn how to create such alignment? Read on! It’s a new Provision for a New Year.

LifeTrek Provision

After two editions of Provisions light, sent out over the holidays, it’s good to be back in the saddle with our series on those traits and qualities that make for evocative leadership. What’s that? It’s leadership that inspires and calls forth the greatness in people. It’s leadership that enables people to find their voice and realize their potential. It’s leadership that evokes positivity, willingness, creativity, collaboration, and engagement. When those qualities are in the mix, peak performance is sure to follow.

We have a ways to go before we explore the fullness of that kind of leadership. I started this series in March of 2010 with a Provision titled Leadership 101. With today’s Provision, we’re exactly half way through the series. How do I know? Because I’m writing with a pattern in mind. It didn’t start out that way; the pattern just kind of emerged all on it’s own. Can you figure out what the pattern is? Take a look at the titles in the Provision Archive and let me know what you think.

Last week’s Provision on Family Ties evoked some emotional responses from a variety of readers, especially those who have a sibling or relative with Down Syndrome in their own family. Many thanks to Erika and her family for permission to post the poem on our website. I have now also posted a picture of Van giving me a hug when we were together again over the holidays in Ohio. I encourage you to click through, to look at the picture, and to read the poem. Such hugs are infectious.

One longtime reader of Provisions responded to that poem at the start of 2011 with a reflection on his 10-year relationship with me through this email newsletter. Perhaps because I have never met or worked with the man, who I think still lives in Bogot•, Columbia, his kind and personal words touched me deeply. I share them with you now as a segue into today’s Provision, Actions Matter:

A new year has come for which I extend my best wishes to you and Megan.

Sometime this year I will have been subscribed to your Provisions for 10 years. Well over 500 moments to reflect upon life, love, relationships, growth, health, needs, being whole and being part of something bigger. In short: a wealth of light you have shone on what makes life so wonderful and rich.

Through AvantGo, the Web, Skype and e-mail you have reached out. More than that, through your Provisions, messages and conversations you have entered the heart and helped me to reflect and embrace the beauty and wonder of life.

A deep and sincere thank you for sharing the abundance. I am grateful for the ones you have shared and curious for the ones to come. May you be inspired for as long as you feel fit and enlightened with love and wisdom.

In gratitude, Chris.

Quite apart from how wonderful it feels to receive such an affirmation • such words are, of course, the currency of my trade • it also struck me that Chris took the time and effort to act upon his sentiments. He could have easily kept those thoughts to himself, but he made an intentional decision to take action.

In a follow-up email, Chris wrote, “While Thanksgiving is not part of the culture I grew up in, I have used the last one on reflecting upon what giving thanks in its core means. And I have been working on making gratitude a more integral part of my life. Gratitude for the blessings and particularly for the people in my life. Please, feel free to reprint the email. Thank you for asking. It is yours. That you may be inspired.”

I have and I am. That’s the kind of thing leaders do. We seek to align our actions with our values. We intentionally work to express those values more fully, consistently, and tangibly. We don’t just talk a good talk, we walk a good walk. To adapt a phrase from St. Francis of Assisi, great leaders get our message across, using words if necessary.

All the words in the world do not matter much if we fail to take action. Another saint, this time from the first century, Paul of Tarsus, picked up on that theme to cast one of the most frequently quoted passages in the Christian New Testament: “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but do not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

2,000 years later, those words still apply. Great leaders are great lovers. Our people know that we care about them not just because we say that we care but also because of how we treat them and because of how we go about our work. Before the holidays I wrote a Provision about the importance of having a good attitude. I wrote about qualities such as curiosity, purposefulness, confidence, and positivity. Such qualities, along with love, distinguish great leaders from people who simply get things done.

That’s because great leaders don’t just give lip service to these qualities; we incorporate them into our way of being and doing. It’s not just what we say that counts, it’s how we get things done.

To be in that space takes commitment, intentionality, and practice. It doesn’t just happen by accident.

Commitment refers to the values we keep and claim. Every leader has values, whether we can articulate them clearly or not. Want to know your values? Ask the people who live and work with you. There’s no way to hide our values from those who know us best. They shine through our actions, whether we want them to or not.

Intentionality, then, is central to aligning our actions with our values. Everyone makes mistakes; everyone falls short of the mark. That doesn’t stop great leaders, however, from setting our sights on high marks. We claim the best, life-giving values as our own and then intentionally seek to express those values in all that we say and do.

Such intentionality makes repairing trust easier, if and when trust is broken. People give us the benefit of the doubt when they know we mean well. “Meaning well” is combination of commitment (life-giving values) and intentionality (striving to live by those values). Great leaders apologize more quickly and easily when lapses occur, precisely because of the broader canvas we have painted over time.

Painting that canvas takes practice. When it comes to living our values as leaders, there is nothing more important than practice. Our daily habits reinforce our commitment and intentionality. I don’t know of a great leader who does not wrap his or her values with regular practices. Such practices often include morning routines, which reinforce that commitment and set that intentionality for the day, as well routines throughout the day that interrupt performance momentum with at least brief periods of reflection and renewal.

Routines are reliable actions that define and develop our values. The two go hand in hand. Without practices our values are little more than platitudes. Without values our practices are little more than reactions. And people get in trouble when we become reactive leaders. It takes proactivity to make leadership work, especially proactivity that respects the feelings and needs of our followers and colleagues.

Coaching Inquiries: What kind of leader are you? How would people describe your leadership style? As proactive or reactive? How fully have you aligned your words and actions? What is your intention in this regard? What practices might assist you to come more fully into alignment? What would it take to do one of those practices right now?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas. I trust you had a great holiday season. I enjoyed your last Provision, Family Matters, with the poem. I have a nephew who has Down’s Syndrome and it really hit home.

Thanks for your last newsletter. I found your poem regarding Family Ties and love to be very touching. 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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