More Than Words: 10 Small Leadership Wins to Create Trust


Struggling to bridge the gap between vision and action in your leadership? Discover how small, meaningful actions can build trust and transform your team.

“Leadership actions carry much more weight than vision and mission statements.” – Frank Blake, former CEO of The Home Depot

Just Cast a Compelling Vision! 

When I moved our family to Woodstock, Georgia, to take the lead pastor role at Woodstock City Church (formerly Watermarke Church), “cast a compelling vision” was the most frequent advice I received.

And I get it. This advice makes sense on the surface. Successful organizations (churches, businesses, non-profits) all seem to live out a compelling vision.

It’s the vision written on the walls and communicated in public spaces. It’s the vision that rallies the troops to accomplish the mission. It’s that sticky, short statement that helps everyone understand the future we’re collectively hoping to create.

Hold that thought…

Doing and Saying

I love a good vision statement. I’ve worked hard to create a few and lead teams to live them out.

However, one thing became blatantly clear during my leadership tenure: Vision without action is only words.

People don’t give more than once to words alone. People don’t buy from companies over time because of their statements. People don’t trust hollow words.

You’ll never lead a trustworthy organization if your actions don’t match your statements.

Frank Blake told me this during our interview for my book, Big Shoes To Fill.

Blake took over The Home Depot during a turbulent time. He knew going in that words were easy. Actions, however, are not. And, in any team or organization needing leadership, people are looking for something other than a new, catchy statement. They are looking for action.

What Frank Blake Did First

When Blake became the CEO, the entire organization needed leadership. Blake knew this and offered it in word and deed. 

Blake sensed his new organization was watching how he’d lead. And if he’d lead.

Whether people, product, or process issues, this is why words fall flat when leadership is required.

To ensure his leadership was more than words alone, Blake looked for low-hanging fruit wins as symbolic actions pointing to the future. Blake wanted The Home Depot team to know things would be different. That required more than a new statement. As Blake said, “Changing the mission statement or name of the organization doesn’t help your team. These changes are not relevant to the lives of the people in the organization who are now following you.”

What did Blake DO?

Nothing huge. But something very symbolic.

At The Home Depot, store general managers are given a budget for a holiday party each year. Previously, there were laborious rules and regulations around how this money could be spent. It was frustrating to the general managers, store employees, and the corporate staff attempting to enforce these rules. When Blake asked, “What are the stupid things that we do that everybody knows is stupid and can be changed?” the list included the party budget rules. So Blake got rid of all the rules.

End of the story.

Blake did something. It wasn’t massive, but it was symbolic.

What Leadership Actions Should You Take This Month? 

If you’re an established leader, your list may look different. I hope you’ve earned the right to lead your team.

However, if you’re a newer leader or a leader in a newer situation, your team is watching and waiting on you to do something, not just say something.

Still trying to figure out what to do? Or where to start?

Well, look for something small, meaningful, and symbolic. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Reduce some red tape.
  2. Have a hard conversation.
  3. Ask what resource the team needs and get it for them.
  4. Take the team on a retreat (to rest, recharge, and build relationships).
  5. Listen actively.
  6. Follow through on commitments.
  7. Delegate and empower your team to act.
  8. Change meeting times to better facilitate the needs of the group.
  9. Update outdated policies.
  10. Open your office door with a sign reading, “I’d love to hear from you.”

You get the point. Every leader says, “My office is always open.” You need to open your office door and invite people in literally. Every leader says, “I’d love to help you.” You need to buy the resources that help your team be successful. Every leader knows how to look like they are listening. You need to actively listen by asking follow-up questions and sending follow-up communication to prove that you heard what was said.

Fool Me Once…

The old adage is correct: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

If your leadership is more words than actions, you’ll fool your team once. But it won’t take long for everyone to realize your bark is without a bite. Once this happens, good luck regaining any trust.


Frank Blake is just one of the leadership experts who contributed to the book, Big Shoes To Fill

I wrote this book to help leaders stop into new roles… without stepping in it. It’s full of practical advice and real stories from leaders like you who’ve been there before. Order your copy today.