Walking the talk

Posted by Robert Beauchemin on Mar 27, 2010

In one my past engagements, where we had agreed to implement a whole bunch of changes, the CEO asked me, "how do we do that?", "how do we implement this new way of thinking?" After explaining all the concepts of change leadership, operational alignment and organization alignment, I felt they were still not all on the same page. So, I added: "you have ALL to walk the talk", I said.

As smart as I thought I was, the answer clearly remained unfulfilling, I could see.

What does "walking the talk" mean?

We intuitively know that you can't say one thing, point everybody in one direction, and then walk in a different path. We all understand it means preaching by example.

But to preach something, by example or not, you need to have something to preach about. More precisely, you need to be complete, coherent and abundantly clear about your preaching. There should not be much room for interpretation. There should not be ambiguity. There should not dissonance in what is being preached.

In leadership terms, what is it that leadership teams are preaching about? To make change happen, leadership teams need to paint a picture about the company (its culture), paint a picture of the future (the envisioned future), explain the main strategies to get there, clarify how the company will organize to execute the strategies and deliver on the vision, explain the responsibilities each will add up to the execution of the plan and how this all relates.

In this context, all executives and managers need to be using the same exact language when describing all of the above, they need to act in the exact same way, in a way that is highly coherent with the above, make decisions that support all of the above.

To enable all this, to be able to walk the talk, the "talk" needs to be written down, literally. Just like a theater play is written down for all comedians to understand the whole plot.