As my six-year-old was filling up a water bottle and adding ice, in my mind I was thinking uggh, there's another mess I will have to clean up when he's done. Then he said, I'm doing what you do Mom, as he put the lid on his water bottle and put it in the fridge to keep it cold for later. Actions speak louder than words! Suddenly, the mess didn't matter because he was doing the right thing, this wasn't soda or juice, it was water. I could tell him all day long to drink more water but it was his observation of me filling my water bottle, numerous times a day, that he mimics.
The same holds true in leadership. What you do, day in and day out is being observed and mimicked whether you realize it or not. As a leader, you set the tone. Your team is looking to you for guidance, to know what is acceptable and what is not allowed. Guess what, if you cut corners, don't show respect or don't follow through on what's promised, your team sees that as acceptable and will do one of three things:
- Will follow your lead and cut corners, won't respect others and won't follow through
- Will seek other opportunities because they don't agree with your leadership
- They will stay, but won't trust you as a leader, and are likely to become disengaged
It seems any of these options are a lose-lose situation because eventually those same actions are passed on to other teammates and eventually your customers.
As a leader, be intentional and consistent with your actions, set a positive tone, because in turn, it is laying the foundation for a more positive culture. Here's how you start or restart if needed:
- Get to know your team. Find out their interests, what motivates them, and over time a mutual trust and respect is earned.
- When you schedule a one-on-one meeting with a team member, keep it. We all know things come up and schedules need to be changed, but if you consistently cancel a meeting with your team member, they will start to feel they aren't important.
- When you're in a stressful situation, keep your cool and stay focused. Your team is looking to you for guidance, especially when things get crazy. If they see you panic, guess what, they'll panic too.
- Give Praise. Recognize team members and those outside your team when they go above and beyond. When you lift up the efforts of others, it inspires those individuals to work even harder.
- Be a team player.
Whether it's my son refilling a simple water bottle or a team member going above and beyond to "wow" a customer, both are examples of how consistent positive actions will prompt positive reactions. Actions really do speak louder than words.