3 Ways Leaders Can Set the Right Example


How important is the example you set for others every day? Most times, we think about modeling our behavior for children – when we’re tempted to text while driving, or when we bite our tongue instead of swearing in front of them. But how important is the example you’re setting for people other than your kids? What impact do your actions have on the behaviors of others in your workplace or friendships?  Every interaction we have each day matters. It’s just not reasonable to expect better behavior from others than we expect from ourselves.

Every workplace has a culture, even if its not written down or hanging on posters on the wall.  The “culture” is set by the values and behaviors that are accepted as the norm.  It’s transferred from new hire to new hire by the time, attention and commitment invested in training and execution of everything from where you park to how employees are greeted by their supervisors.  The biggest determiner of the culture of any workplace is the actions of those who work there.  What we do, not what we say, sets the values-foundation upon which our actions will flourish.  While I suspect few would disagree with this truth, it is deeply imbedded in our human nature to expect people to do what we say and not what we do.

As a consultant I get lots of opportunities to walk with clients through a variety of operational situations.  It’s rewarding to affirm and lift up those who look to me for confirmation they’re on the right track, or to help make what is good even better. When leaders in key positions model the best of the business, it’s contagious, and others follow the example.  The truth is, behaviors are contagious, we remember what we see, and all of us influence those around us by our actions, every single day.

Here are three easy ways you can set the example for the actions you want to see in others:

1.     Know why you believe what you believe.  If you want to see certain behavior in others, it is because it matters to you.  Why?  If it matters to you to see it, it matters to you to do it.  The very exercise of thinking about what matters to you and why will inspire you to be better.  Try it.  I’m confident it will work.

2.     Act with intention.  Be intentional with your actions, recognizing that you are influencing others.  Model the behavior you want to see in others.  Have you ever wished people showed up on time for meetings, every time?  Then show up early to your own meetings.

3.    Reward right. Skip the generic compliments, such as “great job.” Imagine the impact of genuine, specific affirmation.  Something like, “thanks for getting your part of the project done on time.  It really made a difference in the overall project success,” is so much more effective.  Words of affirmation remind others that actions are noticed, and important, and example-setting.


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