Words Not Lived Speak the Loudest

  • Quality is job one.
  • Safety is our number one priority.
  • Diversity is our strength.
  • The customer always comes first.

The signs are everywhere: on the factory floor and in the break room, all over the website and in every marketing piece, in the job descriptions and everyone’s email signature. But they mean far worse than nothing if they are not lived.

If you won’t:

  • delay the launch for a quality problem
  • stop the line for a safety issue
  • make a bold hire to expand your perspective
  • take the loss to make a customer right

those words are worse than worthless.

The actions scream louder than the words. The entire organization knows the proclamations are just noise. They know that something is more important. Yet, they don’t know what. Is it money? Time? Ego? Embarrassment? The status quo? Unspoken priorities loom, and yet remain unknown.

Still far worse is the corrosion. The most essential priorities ­– the ones repeatedly drilled home – are worthless. If those, what else? Is my manager, or coworker, telling the truth? Is that deadline for real? Is the organization’s outlook what they say? Is my job really secure?

Trust is gone. Skepticism permeates. A death spiral of cynicism is a real risk. Because nothing means what it says.

The essential element to teamwork is trust. The core of trust is honesty. If you have priorities that you’re not being candid about, you can’t expect trust.

As a leader, don’t risk everything for hollow words. Don’t sign up for objectives you don’t intend to live. And don’t fail to live what you sign up for.

Because words not lived speak loudest.