Do you walk the walk, or are you just talk?

By Karen Amos

I’ve been feeling challenged recently.  What’s new you may ask?  The world feels like it’s going to hell in a hand cart and to be honest, it’s hard to know where to direct your outrage.

I guess I’ve been challenged around my values.  My ethics.  What I stand for.  And mainly that many people who say they stand for a certain thing, do nothing of the kind in practice.  In fact, they overtly and cynically do just the opposite.

So yes, I’m talking about the current government (I won’t expand, as I don’t even know where to start), but also leadership around the world.  Saying one thing – doing another.

But let’s stop a minute in our righteous indignation and look a little closer to home too.  Let’s look at hype, at marketing and advertising.  Then let’s look at our own and other’s behaviour around us, including in the workplace.

This reminded me of a phrase a work colleague, Ursula Wood of Wellbeing Umbrella used to say:

‘Just because someone says it, does not make it so…’


Talk is cheap and all to frequently nowadays, not challenged either.  The fact is we can say anything we like, it’s a free country after all.  So I can say I’m actually 21 again.  There.  Yippee!  But I’m not, I’m 54 and no amount of saying it (or wishing for a bit more youthful vitality!) will make me so.

But this is where it all goes wrong.  People say they’re ethical, honest, authentic (heaven save us from authentic!), caring, compassionate… of course they do.  Who would ever proudly admit to being unethical, dishonest, a liar, a fraud?

The fact is though that unless we consistently back our words up with action – what we do – we are just that, frauds!

It’s an uneasy truth to bear.  There are times when I have been that cowardly person, when I’ve been ‘economical with the truth’.  Often because I was afraid of the consequences, but that’s by the by; these are the times I reflect upon and am most ashamed of myself.  So if we are to be our best selves and leaders, the people we tell everyone we are, and judge others against, we must face up to these realities.

Funnily enough, my inspiration for this post comes not from disingenuous politicians (although they’re not exactly a rare breed, judging by current events), but from the amount of ‘coaching’ purported everywhere and by everyone at the moment.  It’s trendy, it’s the thing to have, it’s a requirement and applauded in many sectors, including education.

As a coach, that really should be making my heart sing!  So why not?

The problem is that everything appears to be named ‘coaching’ nowadays.

So, instructing, mentoring, advising, teaching, training and plain old directing… all become ‘coaching’ – but they’re not.

They’re also not ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. 

All these approaches have merit in the right situation.  I use them all in my own practice.  That’s how I give my clients most value.

It is however, vitally important that as a leader for example, if you say you take a coaching approach, you have a good look inwards.  Do you actually coach, or are you just directing with a very loaded question?  The former hands the control to the person being coached, the latter is a leader who hangs onto the control, but denies or disguises this as something else entirely.

As an example of coaching, here are a few coaching questions to get you started:

  • What words would I use to describe myself and my values and against which I judge others?
  • What evidence do I have that I practice these consistently?
  • Would other people around me agree?
  • Are there times my values become less ‘mandatory’ to me?

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.