My mentor, Dr. Nido Qubein, often repeats the mantra “We live, they watch, they learn.” It’s a reminder to his leadership team and faculty that they are ALWAYS “onstage” – living, teaching and demonstrating their core values to the students by how they behave, not just by what they say. He understands that the MOST impactful and meaningful way of instructing and inspiring students to embrace their core values takes place outside the four walls of the classroom, not in the books they’re given or the instruction provided.
If you’re a parent, you know your failures at discipline, self-motivation, taking responsibility, making money, your marriage and taking care of your health are far more influential to your kids than anything you can say to them. Most people do not like, nor do they want to own, this responsibility, preferring to blame the school system, their spouse or ex, life conditions, social media, etc., for what their kids have become.
For business owners, this same truth exists. Your customers watch you too. As someone who teaches marketing, I have a responsibility to create and execute brilliant marketing and sales systems in my organization – not just teach “how to” from the stage. Most “gurus” out there teaching business, marketing, sales and leadership are absolutely not walking their talk: they’re flat-out lying about their performance and results, telling you only half the story (the sunny side) and none of the downside, problems, challenges, costs, failings, etc. If you watch them close, they’ll reveal how fake they are.
But any merchant of services or goods needs to make sure they are actually “walking their talk” too. A cleaning company showed up at my house to provide a quote, but when I followed her back to her car so she could give me a business card and brochure, I instantly saw she doesn’t “walk her talk.” The car looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in over 10 years – trash, clothes, food wrappers and who knows what else was piled up on the passenger and back seats. No apology offered for this mess, so clearly this was normal for her. I promised her, “I’ll get back to you,” and instantly ripped up the card when I got back in the house.
This is a litmus test for hiring as well. Someone who applies for a job as the director of digital marketing for my organization via LinkedIn better have a damned good-looking LinkedIn profile, complete with full and accurate information, great headshot, frequent quality posts, great copy, lots of connections and reviews, etc. Their résumé better sell me on why I should hire them. If they can’t (or won’t!) do it for themselves, how the hell can I expect them to do it for me?
For years I’ve ranted about the importance of how MSPs answer the phone, reminding them that the #1 reason a business owner leaves their current MSP and looks for another is because their MSP is UNRESPONSIVE. So now they’re looking at YOUR website, where YOU claim to provide “proactive, responsive” IT services and they call YOUR office to see if you’re any different than the goofball they have who won’t pick up the phone, won’t return calls and forces them to manage them as a vendor…and they get voicemail. Sometimes, a callback 3 days later, if at all. What kind of signal does that send? “We’re full of shite” is what it actually conveys.
Get this: your income and success are based on what you ACTUALLY convey with your actions and behaviors, not just your words. People who fake it, marketing and representing one thing but then delivering something else entirely, are inevitably found out, exposed and punished by the marketplace. As Erma Bombeck advised, “Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.” I would add to that list a doctor who is overweight, out of shape, smokes and eats fast food.
This is not to say you must be perfect and without flaws. Any business that is growing is going to have periods where things are sideways or at least not as excellent as they should be. You will have bad hires and bad vendors who cause issues. People make mistakes. I’m not suggesting perfection but absolute congruence on a few very key items. What you should strive for is when your business is observed by a prospect, red flags and “broken windows” should NOT be the first things they see. If you ask or expect a prospect to overlook glaring shortcomings where you are NOT walking your talk, you’ll be asking a hell of a lot.
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