Do They See…or Hear You First?

Jake Thompson, speaking workshop

Do They See…or Hear You First?

What comes first for your team?

Do they hear you bark instructions about what standard they should be performing up to or do they see you modeling the standard in your actions?

Leadership isn’t just lip service, contrary to how most managers act today. It’s a lifestyle first and foremost.

Stock the coolers.

I grew up working in the small gas station my Dad owned in east Texas. I’d spend summer days sweeping dirty parking lots, cleaning gas pumps, and stocking the cooler with soft drinks & water before I could play with my neighborhood friends.

I hated every minute of it.

On occasion, my dad would jump in and help me stock the cooler or change out a soda line that had run out of syrup. I initially didn’t understand why he was doing that. Didn’t he pay employees to do all of this? Wasn’t he paying me to do it as well? I finally asked him one day why he chose to jump in and do these small tasks instead of just telling his employees to do them.

“I have great employees who can do the work, but many times during life, a leader has to get in there and do the work himself.”

He went on to teach me about the importance of modeling the standard for your team. My Dad shared that it didn’t matter what position you are in a company – CEO or newest entry hire – leadership is first and foremost about how you live your life. Once you model the standard in your actions, only then can you expect your team to meet that standard.

Great leaders are never too arrogant to roll up their sleeves and sweep the parking lot if that’s what the company needs to succeed.

“Besides,” he told me, “if I’m going to ask my team to do a task, I need to show them that I’m willing to do it too. Nothing is beneath me or them.”

Set the standard.

ESPN’s documentary The Last Dance profiled how tough of a leader Michael Jordan was on his fellow Bulls teammates. He was ruthless in how hard he pushed his teammates, often beyond what was required. However, despite this tough persona, his teammates went on to share about how a) they needed that type of leadership in order to become a six-time world champion, and b) Jordan never asked them to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.

If he yelled at you to practice harder, he was pushing himself to the brink of failure during practice. If he said weights at 4am, he’d be finishing his first set at 3:59am.

Jordan understood that in order to push his teammates to new heights, he must be willing to pay the same price first so they could see what it looked like. Only then did he earn the right to push them to the same level.

Model the behavior first – then ask others to meet that same behavior. Too often, managers feel that their role entitles them to do the opposite, or honestly, just tell their teams what to do and not worry about modeling it themselves.

But that’s bad leadership – and a culture-killer at that. Who wants to follow the person who constantly tells people to do one thing, only to watch them behave in a completely opposite manner?

Not Champions.

You can tell your team what to do and what standard to live up to – but only after you have first modeled that standard for them.

Your walk talks louder than your talk. Does your team see your walk first or hear your talk?

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