Two buzz words/cliches that have gotten so over used that they rarely receive their due any more – “walk the talk” and “integrity.”  Throw in “actions speak louder than words.”

Blah.

Yes, I don’t have a new sexy saucy way to say what is simply one of the cornerstones of trust between people.  What I can tell you is that a company who is perceived as having a really positive employee culture still struggles with this basic tenant.  It’s basic, it’s obvious, and it’s hard.

In this company their values include “keeping their commitments.”  Which includes being on time to meetings.  And just recently a manager arrived late to a meeting (again) with all of his direct reports sitting there when he was asked, “Why do all of the C-level execs get to be late?”  Translated – why do you think you’re more important than the rest of us?

And these small actions create huge ripples in the area of trust and camaraderie.  And such a small shift as a commitment to “walk the talk” can allow for critical change in an employee culture that’s been eroded over time by small poignant infractions.  Keep in mind, if you are in a position of leadership, when your rcok rolls down hill, it takes with it a bunch of stones below it.  Your self-permission to “blow off” a company agreement will reflect itself in the actions of people all around you.

Interestingly, Arkadi Kuhlmann, the CEO of ING was interviewed for the New York Times “Corner Office” and spoke the words “walk the talk” multiple times in his interview.  And yet he takes it to a whole new level.  He takes accountability for his actions to a whole new level:

“I’ve been the C.E.O. for 10 years. In December, I’m asking the employees again, would you vote for me to serve with you another year? And all my colleagues think I’m nuts, and the board thinks I’m nuts. But I don’t want to serve here unless I’ve got the commitment of people genuinely wanting me to serve.”

“The difficulty is getting people to interpret why I do this vote. I want people to get two things from this. One is that I don’t take the job for granted. And, No. 2, that I’m willing to be accountable to them, not because I work for them in a broader sense, but I’ve got to walk the talk, right? So if I keep walking around saying all the time that our associates are so important, then why don’t they have a say in terms of whether or not I’m leading?”

Awwww yeah.

If you were truly committed to “walking the talk” in all areas of your company, where would you need to step it up?  Take a look at the “values” your company (says it) adheres to – where are there breakdowns, cracks?  Obviously you wouldn’t still be in business if you were completely out of integrity – but where does it “show up” that you say or want from others one thing, and do another?

And FYI – we’re all human.  Wonderfully human.  With our warts and all.  So when you fall out of integrity, just simply communicate/acknowledge your flawed moment, apologize and get back on track.