Your Actions Speak So Loud

I can barely hear what you are saying.


Yes, your actions are the truest indicator of what you believe; a revelation of the theories that lead to your behavior.

Based on the work of Chris Argyris and Donald Schon, we understand that we all have our espoused theories, for example, let’s say I believe that teams should be allowed to make tool decisions, but then I turnaround and make the decision for the team.  My behavior actually reveals the theories that govern how I act.  It exposes our mental models which we are often unaware of – yes very often we have no clue.  Examples of the difference between espoused theory and theory-in-use abound.  Ever heard “there is no i in team” followed by action that says “who was responsible for this “?  Or how about, “let’s empower the team to fix their problems” followed by action that says “just give me control and I will fix the problems of the team”?

Unfortunately, many in leadership positions are unaware of the fact that how they say they will/would act doesn’t match how they actually act.  Not discussing this inconsistency leads to a huge tax on trust within the organization.  “Leaders” are perceived as being deceitful and conniving.  The erosion of trust impacts the ability of the organization to deliver and meet its goals.  It’s always a pity to see an organization working against itself.

Identifying differences comes from taking the time to reflect on one’s behavior and soliciting feedback from others and comparing the observations and feedback with our espoused theories.  This doesn’t happen on accident, it needs to be intentional.  Differences should lead to creative tension (Senge).  The absence of creative tension implies lip service to an espoused theory; we are saying all the right things just to get by and not because that’s how we want to act or behave.

Remember, our actions speak so loud, people can barely hear what we’re saying (with our mouth).


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