Why Words Are Never As Good As Action

by HardTalk™ Team | Perspiration

Recently UK Business Minister Andrew Griffiths went on BBC Radio to bemoan the lack of companies taking up the Shared Parental Leave initiative; apparently those utilising the allowances could be less than 2%. He was appearing to promote their new campaign to encourage participation in the scheme, which was introduced in 2015 and allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave (37 of which are paid). Quite rightly, Mr Griffiths couldn’t recommend the programme more highly…..but only for other people. You see, he actually can’t use it himself.

In an omission that stunned the host Emma Barnett, he explained that “Ministers are not allowed to take shared parental leave” and that he would only be taking two weeks of paternity leave when his wife gave birth. Her incredulous reaction, and that of her listeners, is exactly how employees feel when Senior Leadership say something is part of the culture but behave in the exact opposite way.

Once upon a time, offices were run solely on hierarchy and managers could easily adopt a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach without fear of insubordination. That is no longer the case. Apart from the evolution in attitudes and workplace norms, it doesn’t even make good business sense. You need to develop, support and encourage your staff if you want to get the best out of them. Improving their satisfaction and creating an environment of candour and inclusion will not only benefit productivity and performance, it will improve your bottom line.

This is also why one of the first things we do in HardTalk is an organisational audit. We assess where the obstacles might be to adopting a new and improved culture. The fact is, that if Senior Leadership or managers don’t ‘buy in’ to changing the status quo for the better, it will make HardTalk that much harder.

In principle, this should be a no-brainer. Improved dialogue and communication amongst teams, especially diverse ones, can only be a good thing. Google even proved it. Their study into high-performing teams, aptly named Project Aristotle, concluded that the highest performing teams shared one particular trait – the ability for every member to both speak up and listen. But intention and action can often be far apart.

If you say you want people to speak up, they are only going to be able to if you have actually fostered a culture of vulnerability-based trust; this happens when employees feel able to hold others accountable, admit mistakes or ask for help without fear of retaliation or resentment. People need to know that they can speak up without fear, that managers or colleagues won’t roll their eyes, dismiss them or wave them away. To create lasting and effectual change you need to do as Ghandi suggested and “be the change you wish to see”. An ‘open-door’ policy or ‘no-idea-is-too-stupid’ meeting policy are only effective if you actually mean them and make people believe you.

Trust us, it’s worth it.

If you’d like to learn more about mastering the art and science of difficult conversations or HardTalk you can do so here; by signing up for the newsletter or sending us an email. We’d also love to hear your thoughts on this and other topics on LinkedIn or Twitter .

Dawn Metcalfe is an executive coach, facilitator, trainer and leadership advisor. She is also the author of Managing the Matrix (published in both English and Arabic) and HardTalk™. Dawn is the founder of Dubai based PDSi, which helps individuals and teams get even better at what they do, and has worked with business leaders around the world to change the way they see the world, their behaviour and their impact on others.


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