In the hustle and bustle of everyday work, amid the chaos of surviving our broken systems to get things done while juggling our efforts to fix our current processes, we can easily forget that leading by example is our most powerful tool we have for improvement and creating our work culture. Even when we don’t notice it, what we say and what we do are seen by those around us. And they are always watching! Always!
I was reminded of this last week while guiding a kaizen event during a discussion with a newly hired team member. He told me that their team leader regularly wears his safely glasses on top of his head instead of properly over his eyes while walking through the manufacturing plant. As a result, this new employee was not inclined to always properly wear his PPE (personal protection equipment). What example has been set? What kind of work culture are we creating?
This is just one small example, but what is the impact?
What about a healthcare clinician who does not regularly or properly wash their hands before caring for a patient?
What about cutting corners on quality just to get the order out? Even just this once?
What if we get upset at a situation at work, letting our emotions go and say things that would make a sailor blush?
When faced with adversity at work or doing a less then pleasant task, do we show a positive or negative attitude?
When a problem arises, are we quick to blame others or do we try to find the root cause?
What if we see this any of these behaviors by others, do we speak up or turn a blind eye and what example are we setting then?
Growing up, how many of us heard our parents say, when seen in questionable behavior, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say” and that somehow was suppose to erase the example set before us. Is this our motto as a Lean Leader?
Certainly, just like our parents, none of us are perfect in the examples we set but that should not prevent us from trying to improve our behaviors to set a better example. And a funny thing about leading by example, it takes many good examples on a consistent basis to catch on yet it seems that it only takes one bad example to spread like wild fire through our company culture.
Like it or not, we are always being watched and the example we set matters.