How to Lead by Example

Good leaders, it is said, never ask their subordinates to do anything that the leader would not do. This is what leading by example means – showing your people how to get things done rather than just telling them. It is the kind of leadership that gains the trust and respect of employees, when they see their bosses walk the talk.

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It’s more powerful than any motivational speech or business master plan. Here are some tried and true leadership routines that also embody the practice of leading by example.

  1. Modeling what you want to see

If you as a leader expect your employees to do things a certain way, to practice certain behaviors or performance standards, you need to model those behaviors yourself. This is true not just for significant kinds of work projects but for little things as well. You need to model the core values of the company.

For example, if punctuality is important, make sure you get to work on time or arrive at meetings promptly. If you want a company that values openness and communication, you need to take the time to initiate conversations with employees.

  1. Communicate

How well do you communicate with your employees? Everyone may believe that they do, but on closer examination, you may find that when deadlines loom or other pressures mount, communication lags. As a leader, you need to make sure you are talking to your managers about business developments and decisions and make sure they are talking to each other as well.

Take the time to keep each other abreast of the latest activities, even if just a quick word or two.

  1. Acknowledge imperfection and fallibility

Many leaders believe they always need to show competence and decisiveness. But this can be counterproductive. Leading by example means that if you make a mistake, you acknowledge it and correct it. It shows employees that it’s OK to sometimes make mistakes. You want people to take risks to make improvement, but taking risks means increasing the possibility for mistakes.

Being honest like this also encourages communication among employees because they feel they can talk about their uncertainty or seek advice.

  1. Let your team members know your goals

Every company has performance and productivity goals for employees. This goes for leaders to. Leading by example means sharing your goals, letting employees know that you are holding yourself to the same standards of accountability that you expect of them.

  1. Setting priorities

If you want to show employees that what matters is not just getting things done, but doing the stuff that really makes a difference to the company, you need to set priorities for yourself, share them, and emphasize the importance of doing so for everyone.

  1. Explain your decisions

If you value transparency, you need to show it. That means taking the time to explain why things work as they do, why certain decisions were made. This helps employees understand the reasoning behind the actions of company leadership and will help workers to do their own jobs better. It also boosts employee morale.

  1. Help your employees

Let your team members know that you are there to help them if they need it. Talk with workers, and ask them if there is anything you can do to help out. This is a powerful example of teamwork and collaboration, of working cooperatively rather than competitively.

  1. Keep your cool

There are times when things will go wrong or become hectic. This is the time when you as a leader especially need to stay calm, taking a deliberate, measured and businesslike approach in tackling whatever problem has come up. This too will set a powerful example for employees in times of stress.

If one of the things causing you stress is a shortage of workers for crunch times at your business, call upon the recruiters at Helpmates. Contact the branch nearest you and let us know you staffing needs.

Helping Employees Embrace Negative Feedback

None of us succeeds in our careers without receiving negative feedback at least once.

Many of us understandably melt into a puddle of despair and never recover believing that if feedback is true (and when done correctly, it is) then we are losers of the first order and so…what’s the point? And we then settle for a career of mediocrity, never reaching our full potential.

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Since constructive criticism is essential to employee growth and improved performance, we’ve put together a short list of things you can do to help your employees embrace – or at least welcome – negative feedback.

  • Feedback is a tool, not a weapon.

Remember that your purpose is not to shame an employee but to help them improve. When done well, employees receiving less-than-gushing feedback will understand that you’re not trying to hurt them, but trying to help them improve. Truly caring about your subordinates comes across when feedback is given in the spirit of “you’re pretty good; here’s how to get even better.”

(Note: if you learn that someone is using feedback in a vindictive manner to colleagues and/or subordinates, it’s time to have a sit-down to discuss and reiterate that such behavior is not acceptable. Yes, the irony here is not lost on us: there’s the chance you’d be providing strongly worded negative feedback to a negative feedback bully.)

  • The “feedback sandwich.” Is it time to retire it?

Some people think the old “sandwich” technique of delivering feedback with a “compliment/critique/compliment” process can give a worker a “false sense of how they’re doing” (hearing two positives to just one negative can appear to mean that they’re doing well).

  • Try the “critique and solution” method instead.

For example, say someone regularly provides reports past deadline. Tell the employee why this is a problem: “Joshua needs to edit and proof the report and Tenisha then needs to lay it out graphically and if it’s late, you put them both behind in their schedule.”

Then together come up with a solution.  Ask the worker to think about why they’re regularly late with the report and then the two of you can figure out how the report can be done on time.

Understand that you may have to do something yourself to help the employee fix the problem. Perhaps the employee feels the deadline is too rushed and so you then offer to provide a longer lead-time/extended deadline.

  • Follow up is key.

And by follow up we don’t mean micromanage. Check in with worker regularly (let them know you will do so) and offer feedback. Once you feel the employee has improved as much as possible and/or you think is necessary, back off.

  • Failing to provide feedback means you’re failing your employee.

Many managers have a hard time offering criticism to subordinates, but you’re doing no one any favors if you don’t:

  • You’re allowing an employee to continue a sub-par performance, possibly hurting productivity and/or profits.
  • You’re showing other employees that a sub-par performance is okay.
  • You’re not helping your subordinate grow and reach their full potential.

None of us improves without making mistakes and then having someone see that we’ve made a them, professionally pointing it out then offering direction and suggestions for improvement.

Criticism therefore is important for all of us: it helps us improve and better ourselves. Failing to provide negative feedback/critiquing employees when warranted means they will continue performing poorly. And, because it’s part of a manager’s job to help employees improve, by letting a poor status quo continue, you’re letting your subordinates down.

While we encourage you to work with employees to help them improve, if one or more can’t – or won’t – accept your feedback and strive to improve and you decide to terminate, Helpmates can provide you with top-notch workers for your temporary, temp-to-hire or direct-hire needs. We hope you contact the branch nearest you to learn more.

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