“Gear up, and get ready to walk the talk”. It’s not an uncommon saying. You’ve probably heard it from the unhappy group mate who’s been complaining about the tyrant of a group leader during a school project, or the disgruntled employee who can’t seem to ever find peace with the supervisor. Walking the talk has come up time and time again, usually against leaders or heads of a team who are adept at dictating others, but often fail to practice what they preach. Yet, what is it about “walking the talk” that is so important for businesses and collaboration, apart from the fancy rhyme?

Read on as we break down the importance of leaders walking the talk, and how that can bring about positive change in the workplace culture, as well as effective employee engagement.

Spike your productivity

I’m sure I speak for almost everyone out there when I say that no one likes a hypocrite. You won’t like them in your circle of friends, and you won’t like them at the workplace. Similarly, you probably wouldn’t enjoy having a boss that tells you not to leave the office before six in the evening, but is nowhere to be seen by five.

A good leader, in the broadest sense of the term, therefore needs to be able to model what he or she expects of his or her employees in order to gain their respect. By doing so, there will be increased levels of engagement between the employees and their employers. Supervisors can expect higher levels of efficiency and productivity when it comes to the work produced. Having a superior at the workplace who is equally as motivated and committed to job excellence can be immensely helpful in inspiring the rest of the team to do the same.

More often than not, it is the leader in a team that is affecting the rest in terms of performance. Rather than point fingers and immediately accuse your staff of being lazy and unproductive, consider your personal conduct – have you been modeling the same type of behaviour and values you want your staff to exemplify? One great example of a leader who ran the talk is Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric. He had a vision to tear down corporate boundaries at the organisational level, allowing and empowering anyone in his company to brainstorm and come up with ideas to improve work processes. Despite being the CEO, he made sure that anyone who wanted his attention got it, creating the culture that he wanted in his company. GE’s success is plain for anyone to see, and I dare say a large part of it can be attributed to Welch’s willingness to walk the talk.

Don’t be selective!

Now that you’ve understood the merits of walking the talk, it’s crucial that leaders understand this: do not pick and choose what you want to model. Imagine a leader who, amongst other things, selects parts of good employee behaviour to exemplify while conveniently ignoring the other aspects. An inspiring leader is also a wholesome, all-rounded one. Being selective about what you want to uphold as good behaviour will probably be perceived as hypocrisy again, rendering your entire walk useless.

Having read up to this point, you might be thinking: being a leader sucks. There are just too many things to think about, apart from your own responsibilities as a worker. You are right; it’s not a walk in the park (pardon the pun). If you are fortunate enough to be put in charge of a team, you will have many sacrifices to make. This includes change parts of your personality in order to ensure the quality of work your employees produce. For example, if you were never one for keeping things organised, yet being organised is something you want from your employees, then there is no circumventing that. You have to be the change you want to see in your team, and you have to start with yourself. Your team is a reflection of you, and being at its core, you have to start the ball rolling. There is no space for selecting particular parts that are more convenient for you to exemplify – it is all or nothing.

It’s a lot less scary than you think

It really is. Many workplace leaders – supervisors, team leaders, managers – assume their positions thinking that they must be superior to their employees, and therefore behave in a way that demonstrates that clearly. As a result, they fear walking the talk, and end up with just a whole bunch of talking. Now, that becomes a major issue: your employees will begin to think that you’re just a figurehead who pays lip service, and will accord you with less respect. Your superiority will then become counterproductive; not only are you not inspiring your employees, you’re also losing their respect and therefore your authority as their leader. No go.

Walking the talk doesn’t necessarily require you to compromise your authority. Your employees are not likely to undermine you when you demonstrate the same behaviour that you expect from them. In fact, I’m willing to bet that they will respect you even more – a boss that’s willing to get down and dirty with his or her employees is one that will command respect around the office. When your employees can see that you’re trying to understand the work done at the ground level, you eventually become more approachable as a superior, and that’s when productivity and efficiency will spike. Remember, walking the talk is a lot friendlier than you think.

None of these tips should be completely unfamiliar to the average leader out there. If you are reading this article for the first time, it may seem daunting to have to be so many things at once. No one said the path of a leader was easy, but you were not elected as a leader without reason. While it may seem impossible at first, I would like to assure you that it does get better with time and experience. Long gone are the days where bosses can strut into an office and demand respect from his or her employees. What your employees are looking for is someone they can look up to, and that’s where walking the talk can help immensely in earning their respect.

Trust yourself to be able to meet the demands of being a leader, that you will be able to be the leader that your employees need and deserve. By humbling yourself and showing them you practice what you preach, you can safely expect better employee engagement translating into better, faster results. If any, that would be the hallmark of a great leader.

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