‘Walk your talk” gets it backwards.
“Walk your talk” is attributed as a simpler way of saying, “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk”. In this case, simpler isn’t better, and when I saw a recent tweet using the shorter saying, my immediate response was, “that’s backwards”.
Dangerously backwards. Feeding into the idea that saying can make it so backwards. Fake it ’til you make it backwards.
Walk your talk masquerades as a platitude for doing what you say you will. Nothing wrong with that the sentiment. I extoll the virtues of keeping promises daily.
But an organisation who touts what they aspire to as true trades trust and reputation for a mirage and breeds cynicism about their future promises.
Much better to talk your walk. Talk about what is.
Here’s where you need to do the work.
Focus on what is. Dig into the corners of what you do and how you do it to find genuine value. It’s there. Something matters most. You have customers. They come back. You have co-workers. They stick around. Value and values you CAN talk about are there if you look.
If the walk is out of sync with where you want to go, take time to change direction. That’s where taking the ‘what’s next’ approach I wrote about comes in handy. Hunker down and fix whatever is broken. Find help for what’s weak and reinforce what’s matters most. Then talk about it.
Along the way, remember that talking to each other inside an organisation is not the same as shouting stuff you can’t do to every Tom and Jane. So don’t stop talking to each other. Poor communication about what’s changing damages culture as surely as trying to walk that unrealistic talk.
People in leadership have an essential part to play. No one will shift their walk if they don’t see the boss doing it. Leaders go first. They literally show the way.
But these days, the walk is less literal. When everyone sits behind a screen, a leader’s stride shows up in conducting a session, how conflict gets handled, and whether they set clear expectations and agreements about participation. However, any disconnects people see will still get amplified in chatter and bounce back in a parody of ‘talk the walk’.
There are organisations whose talk is so out of sync with their walk they need a complete back-to-studs overhaul. More often, I see good solid organisations get dragged by the allure of hype into big talk. A careless disconnect that’s easier to remedy.
If you’re one of those companies, changing talk you can’t walk doesn’t mean setting the bar low. Maybe nothing needs to shift except your talk. So, go back to the ‘what is’ I mentioned earlier and start there.
The end of the year is a good time to look around. Is your talk grounded in how you walk? Does it shimmer like that mirage? Or is it somewhere in between?
Figure it out, then talk your walk.
See you next time.