To become a better athlete, you have to constantly train and improve.

The same applies when it comes to becoming a better leader: you need to constantly work on your skills and evolve.

Here at the adidas Group, we’re striving to continuously review and improve our leadership skills.

As part of this approach, I had the pleasure to lead a project recently called “Walk the Talk”.

With “Walk the Talk”, we as senior leaders committed ourselves to showing strong evidence of effective leadership to all of our employees.

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Why did we start this project?

#1: Because we want to motivate our people to go the extra mile.

#2: Because our employees tell us through our global engagement surveys that inspirational leadership truly matters to them.

Why did I work on it?

Firstly, I volunteered, because leadership and engagement are topics that are very close to my heart.

Secondly, because we all soon discovered that commitment and constant communication would be at the core of accomplishing our objective.

What does walking the talk look like in practice?

There is plenty of advice available on HR internet sites on how to effectively walk the talk.

The insights I found the most inspirational and useful are those of HR expert Susan M. Heathfield and Mahatma Gandhi.

Let me share some of the key principles I’m following to walk the talk:

1)First and foremost, build commitment for your organization’s big goal. At the adidas Group, we firmly believe that sport has the power to change lives. Everything we do is rooted in sport. And while I encourage my team to link all their efforts back to this belief, this also means living and breathing our corporate ambition: for our department, it means battling it out at the table tennis table, doing regular workouts together as a group and participating in the Reebok Spartan Race as a team.

2) Use every possible opportunity to rally your people around your big goal, your organization’s values and the culture you want to create. This includes constant and consistent communication via platforms such as live meetings as well as communication tools such as your intranet and – as you can see – your corporate blog.

3) Help people achieve the goals that are important to them, as well as the goals that are important to you. One way I do this is by asking people in review conversations: “What do you need and what can I do to help you achieve your goals?”

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4) Create transparency on targets and give regular updates on progress. This year we introduced new Brand Key Performance Indicators as part of the annual targets for all adidas Group employees. Each quarter we give an update on our achievement level. For my department specifically we have set ourselves clear targets with regard to external and internal media reception and tonality. Again, we inform the team on a regular basis on where we stand, where we excel and where we need to improve.

5) As a leader, work with your peers to monitor and police yourselves. Don’t hesitate to provide honest feedback to each other when you fail to walk the talk. This is way better than leaving it to your team to point out inconsistencies and gaps.

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6) Be part of the team, instead of just heading it up. You as a leader are required to do actual work, too. And yes, this might well include simple stuff like emptying the dish washer in your department’s coffee corner once in a while. I for example started to surprise my team with home-made cake for our Monday morning department meeting. More often than not, it’s these small gestures that people pick up and remember.

7) Lastly the most obvious advice, the essence of “Walking the Talk”: model the behavior you want to see from others. The best reminder is to think of Mahatma Gandhi. He spent most of his adult life living what he preached to others. There’s nothing that is more powerful.

What are you doing to walk the talk in your organization?

I’m curious to hear from you.

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by john pate 11.06.2015
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by Lisa 01.10.2015
Great post on leadership. Transparency, constant and consistent communication are key

.Keep up the good work!


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by Andrew 12.10.2015
Great post... So true! Good leadership and good team for me is everything to achieve and be successful!
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by Lori 19.10.2015
Thanks for the great article. We implement similar strategies and find they make a difference to the growth of everyone on our team.
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