Action is Character: It’s What You Do, Not What You Say, That Matters

Robert Terson

My late father often used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” That was his half-assed idea of effective parenting when I was a youngster. Actually, to give the man credit due, he became quite effective at parenting later in life when I was an adult—read Selling Fearlessly and I think you’ll see what I mean. But his philosophy of “Do as I say, not as I do” was ass backwards, completely wrong.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is famous for saying, “Action is character.” In other words, it’s what you do, not what you say, that matters. It’s the actions you take that others pay attention to, not your proclamations. Alas, for too many people there’s a huge disconnect about this. They’ll tell you to go do something, and then they’ll go out and do the opposite, oblivious to the rule of life that says the best way to lead people, to influence them, is to lead by example.

Think about it: How do you react when someone tells you something, but then you see that he doesn’t practice what he’s preaching? Completely turns you off, doesn’t it? I could talk to you all day about not worrying about making sales, about how it’s more important to concentrate on providing value to the people you desire to do business with; but if you observe me worrying about my numbers, talking about my numbers, concentrating on what I have to do to “make the quarter,” as opposed to doing what’s necessary to make sure the people I’m trying to do business with are receiving great value, what are you going to believe about me, think of me?

Does the word “hypocrite” come to mind?

If you think you’re above the fray, that people aren’t going to notice when you say one thing but then go out and do the opposite, you’re kidding yourself in the worst way. They’re probably rolling their eyes and laughing internally. They could be gossiping about you behind your back, telling anyone within ear shot what a phony you are

Or worse: if you’re someone they truly respect, deserved or not, they just might follow your example down the wrong path. How often do you think that’s happening, sales managers? Makes you cringe, doesn’t it? Well, if it doesn’t, it should

So make sure your actions comport with what you preach. Lead by example, not by proclamation.


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