Walking Your Talk

It’s easy to talk the talk, but much more difficult to walk your talk. By walking your talk, I mean putting actions that match your words behind them, and living your life in a way that is consistent with your words. If you want to be a truly great coach or leader, this is of paramount importance.

Had current Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel simply walked his talk he would not be in all the trouble he and his employer are facing right now. He even had credibility problems in his previous job at Youngstown State. Tressel takes not walking your talk to a new level, in that he actually wrote a best selling book about character and integrity.

Have you ever wondered why so many coaches and business leaders jump from one job to another? It’s much easier to get things turned around, than it is to keep things moving forward. It takes certain skills to turn things around, but it takes character to keep things turned around, and character requires that you walk your talk. Many skilled leaders can fake walking their talk for a few years, but they know it will eventually catch up to them, so they leave before getting exposed.

How many coaches or business leaders can you name who built something special and kept it going for decades? I can only think of a few off the top of my head: John Wooden at UCLA, Steve Jobs at Apple, Paul “Bear” Bryant at Alabama, Phil Knight at Nike and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. I’m certain I am overlooking a few others, but I think I made my point about how uncommon these types of exceptional leaders who walk their talk are.

Over the years I have seen numerous coaches come into a program and instill their culture and values to great success (initially), before they fall victim to their own frailties. As success comes, they stick with the message that got them there, but they begin to bathe in their success, and are soon seen as hypocrites who lose the respect of their teams and sometimes even their assistants as well. It’s a clear case of history repeating itself, as I have known several coaches who criticized other coaches for getting “full of themselves,” only to watch them suffer the same fate just a few years later.

As soon as the leader of any organization stops walking their talk, it opens the door for everyone beneath them to do the same. This is why far too often we see teams and businesses “done in” by themselves rather than their competitors. Walking your talk is not just important for leaders, but for anyone who truly wants to reach their potential. It’s easy to set goals, but it takes actions to achieve them.


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