When it comes to change initiatives, corporate culture and all the rest of that, there’s one complaint that keeps popping up.
No matter what corner of the glove you scurry to, you’ll hear this behind whispered doors.
Not in every organisation, thankfully.
But in every country and industry.
This hushed complaint?
“They don’t eat their own dog food.”
If you’re not familiar with the expression, it’s an amusing way of talking about hypocrisy. I suppose the idea is that the leaders are telling their people to eat dog food while they eat steak.
With culture, it means listening to strategic leaders talk about respect, integrity, trust, adaptability and all that good stuff… all while failing to live up to it themselves.
This – or even the perception of this – is toxic to morale. Nothing kills trust faster or harder.
If you want to deliver change, then you need to nip this and nip it good. Leave no bud unnipped.
But actions aren’t enough. Like I said, the perception of it is just as bad, so you need to control perceptions too.
By living according to the standards and shouting it from the rooftops.
You don’t want to brag or virtue signal about it or whatever. Simply talk about what you’re doing to embrace the change.
And if it’s tough for you?
If you’re struggling at times?
Transparency and authenticity – that’s what we’re talking about here.
You don’t want to come across as superhuman. No one trusts a perfect specimen. Show your people your scars and bruises. Make them understand that, yes, you know all too well that change is hard.
Make it clear that you’re living up to the standard you’re asking of everyone else.
Or, at least, that you’re trying to.
Make it clear that genuine mistakes are okay. How can you punish anyone for doing what you’re doing?
As long as everyone is aspiring to do better, that’s okay.
Progress is incremental.
And it’s a journey you’re all on together.
You’re not ordering it from the comfy chairs behind friendly lines. No, you’re in the mud of the battlefield with all your people.
There’s an old expression that goes something like: great leaders never ask of their people what they themselves are unwilling to do.
Don’t order it if you wouldn’t do it.
I’m saying the same thing, only more so.
It’s not enough to go through the change too. You have to be seen doing it. Invisible comradery inspires no one.