What’s one of the worst ways to ruin your reputation as a manager? Give employees a reason to call you a hypocrite.
When you state a belief and then your actions show you don’t believe what you said, your credibility collapses. People will conclude that you simply parrot the company line and words don’t matter to you.
Yet even sincere managers fall into the “hypocrisy trap.” They may come across as disingenuous without realizing it.
Consider the number of times you’ve talked about the need for innovation. You truly care about spurring your staff to innovate. But repeatedly urging them to think outside the box while you penalize abortive risks they take sends mixed signals.
Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric, often emphasizes the need to innovate. His actions reinforce his words: He understands managers will make mistakes in their attempts to forge breakthroughs—and he doesn’t chastise them for doing so.
He also sets clear metrics for encouraging an innovative culture at GE. Every year, the firm plows 6 percent of its industrial revenue back into R&D and technology. Immelt likes to say that half the products GE sells today did not exist 10 years ago.
As a result, he presents himself as someone who means what he says. When you “walk the talk” by acting in accordance with your opinions, you enhance your stature and make it harder for disgruntled employees to label you a hypocrite.