“Actions speak louder than words. There is a big difference between what people say and what they do.”
– Alexander Osterwalder
As much as we would like people to be candid about their intentions and beliefs they seldom are. And since we’re people too, neither are we.
Here’s an example of what we’re talking about.
Say the two of us are having dinner and you start talking about your line of work. I express interest in hearing more about it, give you instructions to send me a mail about it so that I can take a closer look at it. The dinner is nice and we part ways.
You send me the mail the following day. It’s a Wednesday. You check your mail the following day and no answer. Check it again Friday, nothing.
On Monday you send me a new mail asking whether I’d received the original one. Because, you know, the internets.
You don’t get a reply so you give me a call. After a few signals you go to voice mail and leave a message.
After that you get the hint. I wasn’t actually all that interested.
Now, that makes me an asshole, right? Kinda, yeah. It also makes me very human.
In hindsight you got to thinking that perhaps I was bored to tears by listening to you talk about your business. Perhaps I thought that the smoothest way to skip that and get to something that interested me would be to feed you the good old “send me a mail”-line.
Regardless of what I said or what my actual intentions were, you could tell something else by my actions.
That’s important to remember going into any situation.
Even when the other person has the very best of intentions we should pay a lot more attention to what they actually do.
This is my rule of thumb whenever I meet a client for the first time. I go in asking for their honest assessment of their business and behavior. That’s to say where they are and where they want to go.
Rarely are they as candid about their shortcomings and visions as they ought to be. However, by observing their actions one can in a relatively short amount of time uncover the issues and their true intentions. Another key source of information? The people working there.
It’s become one of those motivational platitudes I tell the leaders, “Listen to your people”.
They’re not dumb. They know they ought to, they even intend to, but their actions prove otherwise. They only listen to people in so much as to give them the impression of being heard when all they really want to do is to convince the employees that they’re the leader and that they know best.
To be honest listening is actually a really hard thing to do. It takes time, practice, and patience.
However, I don’t tell people that during our first encounter. What I do is to continuously remind them of the kind of people and values they express to have. That way they’re more inclined to act in that fashion.
This strategy isn’t successful 100% of the time, but it’s a good start.
Through a lot of trial and error I’ve found that being honest and telling people about the difficulties they’re going to face while going through the process isn’t in their best interest.
Because when they see all the hurdles they’re more hesitant to take that first step. They want to plan everything and for their ascent to be perfect. It never is.
Neither is confronting them with the things they’re doing wrong. It’s completely logical that people get defensive when they have to deal with the fact that they’ve been mistaken for so long. They seek to justify why they behaved that way, and once they find a valid excuse they’re more likely to cling to their old ways.
The way I think about it is this.
It’s a lot easier to bridge the gap from where we are to where we want to be if we simply start building it first.
Once we’ve laid the foundations we start justifying the efforts we’ve already put in and as a result are more prone to actually finish what we’ve started.
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!