All business managers aim to lead by example, so what examples should you be setting?
Inspiring colleagues to follow your processes and methodologies is an effective tool for developing a work environment that both supports and facilitates your goals. But not every example you set is guaranteed to be a positive one. There are good examples, and there are bad examples.
Good managers set good examples— examples that produce positive results. Yet, this is a vague statement on its own. To advise a manager to “set good examples” isn’t exactly a groundbreaking concept. The crucial information here is in the detail. How can a manager set good examples for their team?
1. Embody the brand attitude
Upper management, and even lower management to a certain extent, are the embodiment of the brand. They are authoritative individuals that make decisions, and the way they behave is a reflection of how others believe they should act.
Management needs to exude an attitude they want others to mimic in the workplace. If, for example, you don’t take work seriously and carry a nonchalant attitude towards client relations, so will your subordinates. Conversely, if you present an uptight and serious manner, others won’t have the confidence to approach their work with a more relaxed fashion.
Behave how you’d like your co-workers to behave. Show them the attitude that you feel will be most appropriate considering your brand, and what will be most effective in terms of completing goals. The key to attitude is often balance. Extremes, such as our examples, can result in difficult places to operate in, or inefficient working environments.
2. Accept criticism and fault
Just because you are the boss, it does not mean you cannot be wrong. Passing the buck, ignoring or dismissing criticism, and scapegoating fault sets a poor example. It displays an accepted ideology within the workplace to never admit mistakes; that making mistakes is, in fact, unacceptable. Owning mistakes is an important part of career and business development, and often unavoidable to a certain degree.
You want your employees to take responsibility for their mistakes, learn from them and use them to fuel their growth. Being unable to do so yourself will mean others on your team aren't willing to either. This creates problems and can even lead to mistakes going unaddressed, as employees attempt to hide them. An inability to take on feedback can also create an atmosphere of resentment towards managerial members.
Take criticism on board and show that your business is not one that shies away from taking responsibility.
3. Take a hands-off approach
You hired your workforce for a reason. They are (hopefully) well trained, competent individuals with unique skills and abilities that provide value to your team and your business. If you want to get the very best out of your team, this includes giving them the power to make their own decisions based on their knowledge and expertise; knowledge and expertise you may not have. So, how do you lead by example and show that they have the freedom to be that decision-maker?
You take a hands-off approach.
Those with very hands-on managerial styles might run a tight ship, but they lose the benefits of the experience found in every member of their team. They also hinder personal development by removing a worker’s ability to follow their own direction. Stepping back from a team, giving them the chance to demonstrate and utilize their unique subset of skills, inspires trust within your ranks. It not only shows you are willing to trust your team, but they should trust those around them, too.
By setting that example of belief and trust in your team’s ability, you encourage them to have their own sense of self-belief. The result is a stronger, more stable unit; one that isn’t reliant on you.
4. Ask questions and listen to others
A working atmosphere that has a ‘go with the flow’ attitude may seem appealing, but it does have its downsides. Questioning work practices allows for potential kinks to be ironed out and an improvement of processes. However, if management aren't seeking to question how their business is operating, those further down the hierarchy are unlikely to either.
Look to actively query all aspects of business operation, and listen to those questions that you do get from your team — acting on them when appropriate and showing appreciation of the initiative. Set the example that changes in the status quo are not considered a bad thing, and you’ll find workers are more confident voicing their opinions.
5. Show equal respect
A functional working environment hinges on mutual respect. Division between sections of the workforce — and even clients — can create a disconnected culture that does not adequately support the needs of all parties involved.
If that doesn’t sound appealing, that’s probably because this kind of situation can be toxic. The key to a successful and cohesive working environment is creating a platform of equality. Specialist treatment inspires resentment and internal divides, team members need to feel they have value that goes beyond their position or pay grade.
Managers should create an inclusive environment, where thoughts and opinions, concerns, needs and feedback are all considered equal. A workplace dynamic often needs a hierarchy, but that does not mean differences in how people are treated. Leading by example and using actions to show even levels of respect across all positions — such as engagement with employees at lower levels of the company, or considering ideas of a subordinate over another manager — can help create that connected environment of mutual respect that fosters success.
Author: Russell Smith is founder and owner of RS Chartered Accountants: one of the UK’s leading accountants for small businesses. Russell has racked up over a decade’s worth of business management experience running his own firm, and knows all about the trials of top management practices.