Tervis Tumblers…not a promotion or any kickback for my thoughts, but they impressed me this week with their integrity. Integrity is a key ingredient for sound leadership. Integrity is defined as the adherence to moral and ethical principals; soundness of moral character; honesty. Good leaders cast a vision (they say what they do or are going to do) and they do what they say (with integrity). It’s funny how the day-to-day experiences of life can instruct us if we pause long enough to realize it.
We own a plethora of Tervis Tumblers and use them on a daily basis. While they are not fine crystal, I like that coasters are not needed to protect my furniture and my drinks stay cold longer. We have a small group that gathers at our house on Monday nights and since there are a variety of designs on our glasses, everyone gets their own glass with a different design and it makes it easy to determine which glass is yours. Tervis advertises a lifetime guarantee on their product. While I knew this, I had never put it to the test. As a glass became defective, I set it aside and thought I should send it back. After ten years, I had seven glasses in a pile to return someday. Since I am finally retired, I decided that someday was now, so I went to the Tervis website and easily found the information needed to return the glasses.
Now, leadership and integrity were put to the test. Would the company step up and do what they said they would do? I filled out the information required and sent the box of glasses back. Within twenty-four hours, I received an e-mail saying that they had received my submitted form, provided me with a timeline for replacement and that they would let me know when my items shipped. Good leaders communicate clearly and in a timely manner. I was impressed that they responded so quickly, but was still doubtful that all seven glasses would be replaced. And then, much more quickly than expected, seven new Tervis Tumblers arrived! That’s when I was reminded of the importance of “Say what you do…Do what you say!” It’s a great leadership principle.
Obviously this motto applies to businesses, but also is applicable for organizations and for parents. I have had the opportunity to open new schools and the first important task each time was to determine our vision (say what we do). Simple is better as people can remember and use the motto as a plumb line to make sure actions follow the vision of the organization. In one particular school, our vision consisted of four words, “Encouraging, Enthusiasm, Excellence and Ingenuity.” I wanted teachers and staff that would encourage student learners, be enthusiastic in their presentation of content, build steps to learning where students could reach excellence and use ingenuity to think out of the box as the teachers would be instructing a diverse group of student learners. I shared these four words with every person that I interviewed - custodians, lunchroom workers…yes, everyone to make sure that they understood our vision and that we wanted to do what we said we would do. I shared these four words with every parent and every student, encouraging them to espouse those characteristics at school. This consistent message and implementation was a critical piece of our success.
If there is anywhere that this leadership message is important, it is in the world of parenting. Parents must say what they do and do what they say consistently with their children. Many years ago, I was at the beach on vacation with another family and we all had young children. A day or two in to the vacation, their child was pitching a fairly typical toddler tantrum. The dad said to the child, if you don’t stop, we are going to get in the car and go home! Fortunately, the behavior subsided; I sincerely doubt the dad was really going to put them all in the car and drive back to Georgia. The moral here is never say what you won’t put into practice! When this occurs, you damage your credibility and integrity is compromised.
What do you say about your company, organization, classroom and home? Do those on the journey with you know “What you say?" Do they know your purpose and vision and how it is to be carried out? Do they see you living the vision each day you are there? Are you doing what you say? Give it some thought; it may be time to modify or better communicate with those around you the message that you desire to get through to those you lead.