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The Examples We Set, Our People Are Watching

by David Brock on June 28th, 2015

As managers and leaders, we create (consciously or unconsciously) dozens of “training” moments for our people, every day.

Our people watch our every move, drawing conclusions about what they should be doing, how they should be behaving, where they should invest their time, and what their priorities are.  What we do and how we act become more impactful than what we say.

It’s so simple, yet we make so many mistakes:

  • We want our sales people to use the tools and systems we’ve invested in—but we still ask our admins to print out a report, or send us the updated Excel report.
  • We want our people to use the sales process, but we never use it when we do deal reviews.
  • We want our people to stop pitching, to question, probe, and understand the customer; but we don’t listen to our people–we just tell them what to do.
  • We want our people to listen to and understand the customer, but we don’t listen to them.
  • We want out people to continually learn and improve, yet we haven’t picked up a book or gone to a workshop in years.
  • We want our people to be customer focused, yet we spend all our time behind our desks or in internal meetings.
  • We want our people to change, but we do the same things.
  • We want our people to feel empowered and take responsibility, but we micromanage expenses, pre approving every customer visit.
  • We sometime tell our people to do as we say, not as we do—but guess what……..

Think about yourself, you watch your own manager.  You care about the things she cares about.  You focus on the things she thinks are important.  You watch how she conducts herself, how she spends her time, how she works.  Everything she does influences what you do (consciously or unconsciously).

We talk a lot about the importance of culture, but culture is really the cascaded and collective set of conscious or unconscious behaviors and attitudes we see every day.  They are the examples set by our top leaders, reinforced by their direct reports, repeated by their direct reports, all the way down the food chain and throughout the organization.  These actions, behaviors and attitudes become who we are, how we are perceived and how we act — they are our culture.

If we talk about being customer focused, but we aren’t employee focused (afterall, our people are our customers), then we will never be customer focused.

If we talk about fulfilling our commitments to our customers, yet we don’t fulfill our commitments to our people–then customer service will become lip service.

If we talk about being a learning organization, but we punish mistakes, our people won’t be creative, they won’t experiment, they won’t change or innovate.

If we talk about the importance of change, but don’t actively solicit and use the ideas of our people, our customers, our shareholders and community–we’ll stay the same.

The most impactful (and cheapest) training we can implement is being aware of the example we set–and making sure we set the right example in everything we do and say.  People are watching, they are paying attention and acting.


From → Leadership

  1. Doug Schmidt permalink


    Thank you for another post on how important our behaviors reflect on our ability to become effective leaders. One of the challenges we face is the viepoint that we not be doing an affective job in training, motivating and encouraging leaders. For example, how many schools or organizations do we have that train, motivate and educate affective leadership principles?

    Where are our higher education schools that teach effective sales leadership habits, practices and principles? Can we name one of note? What are our institutions of sales leadership we as sales professionals can be proud of? Is there anyone that can say they received effective sales leadership training, where they went and recommendations for the rest of us?

    My friends in the military can. They are called West Point, Parris Island, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy and U. S Coast Guard Academy and many others.

    Maybe we can learn from our veteran friends.

  2. I fully agree with the sentiment here. Leading by example is the most powerful form of leadership, and I think people in large companies often forget this. Partially, I think it’s due to the nature of companies these days: doing more with less means every level of a company is perpetually overworked.

    Perhaps it’s time to lighten the agenda load; to book slots where we actually focus on the things mentioned (training, self-education, etc…) and double down on creating a positive example for all. I agree with you: I don’t think the example of an overworked manager always in meetings is a good one. The same goes for everyone up the chain…

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