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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Leading by Example in a World of Copy Cats
When you are in a leadership position, what is the one principle that is the root of everything you do across the board? Lead by example. Why is that? Because we live in a world of copy cats and people do what they see their leaders do.
For example, say the CEO of a company is using his petty cash account for personal expenses (such as a 2008 Mercedes), rather than business expenses. Now Bob in sales knows what the CEO is up to. And it’s likely that Bob won’t report the events. Instead, he’ll follow in his CEO’s footsteps and start requesting reimbursements for the dinner he had out last week. No one has to know it was just him, the wife and the kids. He can say it was a business dinner with potential clients. Afterall, if the CEO gets away with it, so should Bob.
Think about it. Every part of business (and personal life) in which you are trying to teach someone goes back to the fact that people will duplicate the actions they see from their superiors or those the admire. For example:
As shown in the example above, the values your company has on paper mean nothing unless everyone, especially those at the top, consistently abide by them. Being in a position of leadership, especially as the owner of a company, requires integrity. Ethical values have to be in place in order to maintain a trustworthy work environment for you and your employees.
It’s unfortunate that many people have high values and morals at home, with their family and friends, but will often become a completely different person when at work. Someone that may never yell at his children may yell at his employees. Integrity means consistency in all areas of your life. And if you don’t have it, people will notice and it will reflect in their own morale at work.
When you try and motivate an employee, the outcome isn’t all that great if you yell at him and give him an ultimatum, is it. Of course not, because your employee just gets stressed out and angry themselves. You must motivate by being enthusiastic. If you don’t enjoy your job, then your employees probably won’t enjoy theirs. Your negative attitude will rub off on everyone. Instead, choose to be positive and excited about each day. Pat your employees on the back once in awhile.
Though some people would like to think it does, handing a new employee a book that details how to do each task and leaving her to herself to figure things out just won’t work. Sure, she might get some things right, but most of the time she will be at a lose for what exactly to do. That’s why most companies train their employees by showing them how to do each new task the right way. If they see you do it correctly, then they will likely do it correctly as well (eventually).
Additionally, if your employees see you jumping at the chance to learn something new, they will be more likely to do the same. When they see you putting yourself out there for something, most employees will recognize that acceleration in the company requires a willingness to try something new and challenge yourself.
Mentoring someone, whether it’s an employee, intern, friend or family member, requires that you share your struggles and successes. You listen to the issues and questions that person may have and give advice on how best to resolve them. This often means explaining to him a time when you dealt with a similar situation, maybe even failing on the first attempt, and how it all worked out in the end. When you mentor someone, they respect you and often heed your advice to the letter.
It all comes down to the fact that, when in a position of leadership, you should never say or do anything you would not want those under your supervision, who admire and respect you, doing as well. Follow the golden rule and lead by example. Things will run a lot smoother if you do.
• Leadership Wired e-newsletter: People Do What People See
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