If you ever wondered why your employees are not working as hard as you’d like or following directions in which you feel is appropriate, maybe you should take a look in the mirror, and ask yourself what example you are setting. I tell my employees this all the time. “You wonder why your employees are dragging their feet when all they see you doing is the same. If you want them to hustle, maybe you should hustle more.” Of course if my managers below me are doing this, I think to myself if I am setting the right example also. I would be a liar if I said I always set the best example, I do not, but I am aware when I am setting the wrong example, have a discussion with my team about it, and try to correct it the best I can. No one is perfect but you should strive for perfection.
Dealing with Negativity
If your management does not lead by example, do not chastise them or speak less of them to your subordinates, but rather set the example and be better than your management. Honestly, this may cause your team to wonder why they are striving to perfection when they see your leadership being lackluster, unmotivated, and negative all the time, but it is important to continue to be the example for them. This will push them to want to do better even when everyone else around them has given up. This can be very tough but you need to dig deep and push forward. I have seen the same hourly employees work 1,000 times harder for one manager and -1,000,000 slower for another. Why? Because one manager will drag their feet, be negative, complain, wine, dread coming into work, etc, while the other, even if they feel the same, will move with a purpose, stay positive, even when they have the odds stacked against them, and motivate their employees to keep on going. Everyone has bad days, and that’s perfectly normal, but you need to do your best to keep it low key. I do not recommend you hold it inside but do not take it out on your employees, seek out your leadership, and ask for assistance in whatever you feel your challenges are.
Find a Mentor
This goes back to integrity. Setting the example is about doing what is right even when no one is watching. Having that character is important to your team and it gives them a model to look up to and mold themselves after. Think back to someone whom you looked up to, possibly a mentor you’ve had, and think about the kind of person they were. What about them did you admire? If you do not have a mentor, I would strongly suggest finding one. This could be someone within your company, a teammate in a local sports team you participate in, band member, friend, family member, etc. It could even be a famous person, if you read Tim Ferriss’, “Four Hour Work Week,” he would advise you to contact this famous person, whether they are an actor, CEO, religious leader, etc. I wouldn’t advise against it but I would try to find someone who is more local. To be honest, currently my mentor is Jocko Willink, former Navy SEAL Commander, co-founder of Echelon Front, and co-author of, “Extreme Ownership.” I love his leadership style, strive to emulate it with my own Dodge twist, and apply his lessons. Having this kind of positivity in your growth is important, will reflect in your daily life, and help you battle that negativity.
Leading From the Front
Setting the example happens in the front; not in the rear at your desk. I am not suggesting you can never be at your desk but remember, if you are never seen, you cannot truly show the example; unless the example is to be out of sight and out of mind. One thing that motivates your employees is seeing you out there in the field, by their side, setting the example, and showing your support. I pride myself in that I am hardly at my desk but I also am not micro-managing nor doing my employees jobs for them. A lot of the time I am out there with them, engaging, interacting, guiding, and even joking around building morale; keep in mind, you cannot joke around too much or your team may lose respect for you. With everything, there is a moderation in leadership, or a dichotomy, and you need to be able to balance between being serious and having fun. Leading from the front means that you are leading by example, you are demonstrating how to do a task not ordering them do it and expecting them to ‘figure it out.’
All in all being the example is easy for some, and harder for others, but attitudes and behaviors can be changes; it is up to you as a leader. If you do not have a good example around you to look up to, you need to find it, and apply what you have learned. I would say the military truly helped me learn what it means to be the example but even then I am still learning and will continue to learn. Like my dad told me, “Just because you are done with school does not mean the learning will ever stop.”