Your employees are watching you, and they’re being influenced by your behavior, for better or worse. Are you leading by example? Are you behaving in a way that you want your people to emulate? Are your actions always in the best interest of the team and organization?
If you are leading by example, you aren’t relying on your words alone to guide your employees. Certainly it would be easier if you could say all the right things and significantly influence your team. Easier, but unrealistic. Your words matter, but your actions and behavior matter so much more.
In other words, you can’t just talk the talk. You must walk the walk.
Doing so is harder than you might think because it’s not easy to translate what you want into actions people can follow. Instead, we talk in high-level, vague language, rather than providing specifics. For example, my list of ideal outcomes for my employees is that I want them to be:
- Engaged and empowered
- Flexible and open to change
That is a great list, but what do those “things” really mean in regards to the daily work employees complete? How does an employee show he is engaged? What must an employee do to prove she is hardworking? If you can’t answer those types of questions clearly for each of the attributes or qualities you want to see in your employees, you are going to have a hard time leading by example. Quite frankly, you won’t know how to behave to set the example.
To lead by example, you must determine what behaviors create ideal outcomes.
Take some time today to figure out your top five ideal outcomes for your employees. Choose the qualities that matter the most. Then establish behaviors that you expect from employees that reveal they posses those qualities. For example, I want my employees to be engaged and empowered, so I want to see them doing the following:
- Acting like an owner. They’re making decisions based on the highest good for the business and objectives.
- Being proactive. They’re asking what they can do to help or improve a situation.
- Taking accountability. They recognize that there is always part of the project or result that they can impact in a positive way.
- Trying new things in service of the desired goal. If you make a mistake, own it and learn from it.
For me, if my team members are engaged and empowered, they are doing those things. That means, that I, too, am doing those things. I’ve set the example, and they are following it.
- What do I want from my team?
- Am I delivering those things personally?
- How can I translate what I want into the behaviors that produce it?
If you want your influence to be positive and productive, you must be clear on what you want from others, and then make sure your actions (as well as your words) support that. That is how you will lead by example in an intentional and productive way.
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