Jill Pett: Do you ‘walk the walk’?

I once went to a retirement dinner for the CEO of a well known blue chip UK business. You might have expected his top table to be crammed with other senior movers and shakers from his industry, however far from it. On one side of him he had the door attendant who’d been welcoming him to work for thirty years and on the other the person who had delivered his cups of tea every day. I was impressed because, if ever there was a lesson in knowing and valuing your people with a good dash of humility thrown in, then this was it.

It’s a great example to set to those senior leaders who are good at talking the talk but less effective when it comes to living and acting on the values they are so keen to promote.

Revert to command and control mode

‘Walking the walk’ is particularly important in culture development – an area so critical to the modern day business. Many senior leaders are happy to talk about issues like empowering their employees and getting them to own and develop the company’s strategy but, when it comes down to it, they still behave in command and control mode.

In an earlier post I talked about those moments of ‘being human’ and living the values you preach is really just an extension of that. Everybody in an organisation looks to the behaviour and the conduct of the CEO – my Alexander colleague John Ainley describes it as organisations becoming shadows of their CEO – so, if you really want to change the culture of your business, make sure your words aren’t at odds with your deeds.

Perhaps time to rethink the seating plan for the next work function?