More Than Words...Jan 03, 2023
No, not the 1991 single by Extreme! I’m talking about what you and I need to provide to set the tone in our organizations - especially since we’re far more likely to get what we are then just what we want!
Whether they’re listed in the employee handbook, on a document in a fancy frame that hangs in our lobby, or printed t-shirts we give to all our employees, the values we want lived out by the individuals on our teams absolutely have to be more than words! We’ve got to be responsible for leading by example in the workplace, especially if we want to provide our team members with a reason to care about the organization anywhere close to as much as we do…
So what can leaders do to set a good example for others in the organization? One of the most common things I hear is “I don’t expect anyone to do something that I’m not willing to do myself.” While I respect the sentiment behind that, I’m not sure it’s always possible to display on a regular basis, especially if we have a large team of folks who are counting on us. The reality I see so often is that leaders who attempt this get bogged down in the work they could and should be paying others to do. If a leader insists on taking out their own trash and sweeping or mopping their office floor but doesn’t have time to meet one-on-one with a team member who needs them, they may need to re-evaluate how they’re using their time!
Yeah, I know that’s a fairly lame example but hopefully you get the point… Leading by example isn’t doing the exact tasks we need our team members to do, it’s more about performing at the same high level of expectations within the tasks we’re responsible for. And quite honestly, as leaders, we’d do well to make a practice of exceeding the expectations our teams have of us!
I can think of two great examples of this who I’ve watched closely over the last few years. Both have clearly defined values for their organizations and both are very engaged in the day-to-day operations as well as with their team members. Those two things alone provide an example that their respective teams have bought into, but they each take those values a step farther. I’ve seen each of them be very intentional about tying things they do or decisions they’ve made back to those values when they interact with their teams, be that in an individual conversation or in group meetings. Not only are they providing the example through their behavior, they’re not leaving anything to chance when they explain their actions to their teams!
But just like a leader’s time is often stretched too thin to have a hand in every kind of task, few are likely to be able to provide a visual example (or an explanation along with it) for every single person on their team. That makes it even more important to take advantage of the opportunities we do have - because someone is ALWAYS watching. And that’s where we’ll pick up next time…