Conceptualizing “modeling” isn’t just about the act itself but the observance of others as well.
Set the bar for what’s important
If you put off something you don’t enjoy, odds are others will follow suit. Others care about what you care about. If you don’t care about it, you won’t check on it. People will pick that up. Lead by example. Model what you want.
Delegate your beloved projects
How important then is that to delegate what you really love to do? If you delegate the things you love — what you really want to do — then won’t you follow up and measure progress? Your team, your directs, will know it is important to you and that it’s important to them. You are invested. You will check in — it won’t slip your mind or be drudgery. And sometimes that means you take on the dirty work yourself.
It also teaches your directs how to lead by example and be great managers. It’s time to break the cycle of bad managers. If you want change in your organization then you have to lead by example.
Lead by example
Lead change by modeling the change you want, and ensure that change by measuring what you want. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t works. People deceive themselves thinking, “no one can really see this.” Whether politicians, CEOs, parents, or supervisors. If I believe no one can see my true nature, then I must think everyone around me is stupid (for the record, that’s not true).
My kids are young and they can already see right through it. Even if they can’t cognitively identify and categorize it, they are mimicking that behavior. They’re in elementary school and they’re able to pick up on these (poor) behaviors. If my kids can do that, then how in the world could I ever think I could deceive adults? The same goes for you.
Let’s go through a few popular examples.
Sending late night/weekend emails
This is a very popular “do as I say, not as I do” which I still catch myself in. It’s tempting to pull out my phone or laptop to simply “check in” on something. While I’m there, I may as well reply.
That’s may be okay if that’s your company’s culture, but if you tell your employees “hey, I don’t expect you to work nights/weekends” and then you do it, you’re setting up a double standard. If you justify it because of your role, then you’re setting expectations for your role, which is what they’re likely seeking in career advancement!
Working while your kids (or spouse or dog or friend or…) are wanting your attention
Truthfully, there are times when we need to say “I need to work right now”. However, I believe those instances are a lot fewer than what we currently do. Second, we need to speak up. Ignoring is not fair. Especially for kids who can’t pick up on “silent treatment” or sarcasm as effectively as adults — or, heck, even just being perceptive — we need to speak honestly and be willing to look the person in the eye. If we can’t do that, then we need to put the laptop and create a memory with other humans.
So put away the laptop. Spend that evening with your family or friends. Read a book. Contemplate. Get your mind out of work. You’ll find not only do you set a good standard and are refreshed the next day, but that you’re strengthening your own will power by leaving alone that gadget.
“Catching up” on [task name] while [insert just about anything here]
- Reading email while at the dinner table
- Instant messaging someone while in a conversation with another person
- “Wrapping up” XYZ project while at a restaurant with friend, movie, or somewhere where you are with people
Email is important. Responding quickly is necessary. Without it (or with slow responses) it really slows projects and makes initiatives crawl. But there are still costs.
These activities frequently send several signals:
- We optimize for email and instant messaging, not personal interaction
- Especially around kids, our devices are more important than they are
- You’re a big shot when a device constantly pings you and demands your attention (the undertone becomes “sorry, I need to respond to this — I am important”)
- We believe that without our work, input, or dedicated, everything will crumble — we cannot let go because our identity has become our work
These are fuel that helps drive further, but it is a dirty fuel. It will pollute your life and be bad for you long term.
These all have happened to me. These all have happened to others. We have witnessed all of these (and more). Being so enamored and enraptured by our own work is a dangerous game. It’s unhealthy, short-term. It may be masked today, but doing it sows seeds that we’ll reap in years or decades.