What message do you “telegraph” to your employees?

A good friend of mine (I’ll call him Charlie.) is a gentleman farmer who, along with his wife, raises horses as a hobby. The name of his farm is “Horse Feathers”. (This name alone tells you volumes about my Charlie’s carefree approach to life!) At the same time he’s also a very successful business leader.

So whenever we get into a discussion about leadership or management issues, Charlie reminds me how smart his horses are. In fact, he elaborates on the management insights he gets from working with them. Charlie tells me how his horses can read a person—how they can tell by the person’s non-verbal cues and their actions what their real intentions are. They don’t understand the language we use, nor do they need to. Horses communicate on a deeper level than mere words are able to do. They instinctively know our actions speak louder than our words.

All this (as usual) got me thinking. How often do we try to disguise our real intentions to the people in our companies by using carefully chosen words that are intended to mislead rather than lead them? We think we can hide our intentions behind an onslaught of words, but we really can’t. Here are two examples of what I mean…

What are you telling your people by the way you invest your company’s money? Oh, sure, we tell ourselves, “It’s my money, and I’ll do whatever I want with it.” Technically, I suppose that’s true. But when we hold our people accountable for controlling costs and producing profits then we need to hold ourselves accountable too. We must invest the company’s money in the tools and training our employees need to deliver the expected results. If we chose to spend the company’s cash on “toys” instead of needed resources we’re sending a very clear message about where our priorities lie. And there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to explain your way out of this one!

What do our actions tell our people about our respect for their time? How often do you disrupt your people’s time off with phone calls or text messages that really don’t need to take place? It was just a “quick question” you had. Or maybe a bit of information you wanted. But you likely needlessly interrupted the important (to them) task they were involved in.

Or how often do you show up late for (or blow off entirely) meetings you’ve scheduled with your people… after they have adjusted their own schedules to meet with you? No apology needed, right? After all, you’re the boss! But heaven forbid one of your employees should report late for work or show up late to a customer’s job. Some business owners even have elaborate policies based on point systems that are designed to discipline tardy employees. But when your people don’t show respect for you or your customer by being late, aren’t you really only getting what you given?

The next time you think you can put one over on your people with fast talk and elaborate excuses, just remember my friend’s horses. Be assured your real intentions are being telegraphed to your people non-verbally…because your actions are speaking much louder than your words!

Chuck Violand (more about Chuck)
SFS Instructor
CEO Violand Management Associates

1 thought on “What message do you “telegraph” to your employees?”

  1. What if you are the employee who is tasked to handle things… like safety,.. but there “is no money” in the till to pay for OSHA required needs, however, installing new “toys” for comfort instad seems to be the priority…?

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