Lead by example
- 1 November 2020
Being a parent opens up a new angle on viewing things. While I’ve been in a managing position at work for the majority of my worklife, this role is fairly new to me in the context of my own family. Not surprisingly there are similar patterns and I want to share a few thoughts on these. For today, I’ll start by setting an example.
I’ve grown up with the routine that every morning between 6:30 and 6:50 I’d sit at the breakfast table with my dad. While he was reading the newspaper, I’d chew away on my cereal. This was our routine from around the time I started going to school all the way until I went to live in the states when I was 16. So its not surprising that having food together plays an important role in me being a father myself. My son - who is now close to two years old - has been sitting in his eating chair with us at the table for some time and closely monitors what we do.
When switching between different topics for bread or rolls - that I apply with my knife onto my bread or roll - I clean it in between (since I don’t want to get rubbish into the jam or honey jar ;) One day - out of the blue - my son took his knife and actually licked the jam off of it. You can imagine that I was baffled and explained him, why licking a knife wasn’t that great of an idea. Easily you can guess, how I apparently sometimes seem to clean my knife when switching topics. Exactly! While I count myself into the group of people who think of themselves to have decent manors at the table, somehow this is a habit that I seem to have picked up for when eating in private at home.
Obviously my wife and I aware that we’re living examples for our son but this little escapade once again highlighted on how easily behaviour is copied and how much of a role model we are. Obviously the people that surround me at work are by no means toddlers, however the basic idea stands.
Regardless of any hierarchy people are or become role models and set examples in everyday aspects.
You expect your employees to be open for feedback and maintain a culture of awesomeness? You better be doing your best and living it yourself. If I as a manager show up late for meetings, bring food and stare in my laptop or cellphone throughout the meetings, should I be surprised that others are not paying attention when I have the word? Having proper downtimes is important, if your teamleads are always crunching it don’t be surprised if your devs feel the urge to do the same and have a hard time to take appropriate downtimes.
It does sound very trivial and to the most obvious. If I’m honest: being a leading good example in everyday practice, ain’t that easy. It does require some discipline, but does bring good effects, since it in subtle way allows to shape the organization. People working with me know that I dislike being late to meetings and that being not prepared for a meeting is difficult wiggle out of if the invitation for the meeting carried all infos on what is expected from the meeting. I don’t have to iterate over these basic principles, I live them and give a good example.
The leading example works on a lot of levels. I’m sure everyone has experienced situations where one might have gone a bit too far in the tone of voice or was a bit harsh in feedback. Giving a good example is also being able to apologize in front of the same audience. It’s fine not to be always perfect - we’re humans, not machines - allowing this is being an example as well.