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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

How often have you heard a leader preach a set of values but not demonstrate them? For these folks, it is easier to give other people advice than to heed their own words and live by them unconditionally.

They talk about creating a risk-taking culture but punish those who make mistakes.

They strive for perfection on paper, yet imperfect but workable solutions are given importance and performance improvements are eluded.

They preach the need to be customer-focused but dedicate no personal time to communicate with customers and hear their concerns. Customer complaints escalated to their office are passed to others for follow up and resolution.

Company rules and policies are designed to put the economic needs of the organization ahead of serving the customer in a sensitive and caring way.

Company operations are designed to contain cost rather enhance the customer experience. Call centres are outsourced around the globe and are treated as a cost to be controlled rather than as loyalty tool.

They talk about people as their most important asset, yet remove themselves from the mainstream activity of the organization and are out of touch with what people need to do their jobs better.

They are command-and-control fiends; their comfort zone is to direct people. Asking "How can I help" is a question that never crosses their mind.

The gap between words and action does not go unnoticed. Employees listen; their expectations are dashed. They conclude that the leader is hollow and will never deliver on his or her word.

As a result, employee satisfaction languishes. Little progress is made toward a healthier corporate culture, and business performance slides.

In contrast, enlightened leaders "eat their own dog food." In other words, they consistently do what they say. They use their company's products and services. Their word is their bond.

Here are eight practices of "dog food" leaders:

1. They passionately communicate the direction of the organization in great detail so employees understand the precise behaviour necessary to successfully execute it. They do it face-to-face; e-mail and social media are used only to support their in-person message.

2. They talk about imperfection and how important it is to do "just enough" planning and "more than enough" execution.

3. They focus on the few critical things that must be done to make their vision come alive. They make it a priority to eliminate obstacles that get in the way of implementation.

4. Their calendar mirrors what they preach; they are generous in allocating time to spend with customers and employees. They have a dedicated telephone and e-mail address to be available to others. They are active users of social media to build bonds with their staff and the organization. Their tweets are their own.

5. They handle customer complaints personally and use them to recover from service blunders and deepen customer loyalty.

6. They keep in-house all business functions critical to building deep customer relationships.

7. They don't delegate critical activities that require their personal fingerprints. They are actively involved in determining how customer engagement must look and feel. They participate in recruiting for key positions; their attendance in the interview process is commonplace.

8. They openly and genuinely communicate their pain, believing that employees should see they suffer disappointment like everyone else.

The "do as I say and not as I do" approach doesn't work.

It's an insult to people's intelligence and tags the leader as insincere and intellectually dishonest.

Before pronouncing your beliefs, make sure you are prepared to have your actions speak louder than your words.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.