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Published on December 7, 2020

3 Powerful Ways To Lead By Example At Work

3 Powerful Ways To Lead By Example At Work

The workplace is our modern-day version of an adult playground, full of many different people, personalities, and perceptions. Each person brings a unique edge to the office that collectively creates a diverse array of skill sets that can benefit the company. In order to bring everyone together, a leader must lead by example.

How do we develop systems and procedures to bring out each player’s best in the corporate playground? By creating practical leadership principles and habits of execution.

Leadership will always be the bread and butter of business because it centers us around a common theme and mission. Much like the philosophy of the armed forces and Navy Seals[1], leaders are made, not born. The same is true in business.

Leaders aren’t inherently any different from those they lead regarding their physiology or body composition. Still, they do possess other characteristics and habits that may not be apparent to the naked eye.

Leaders don’t need to have a leadership title to be leaders. Every employee of a company should have to think and act like a leader in some way, shape, or form. So what separates the good leaders from the great leaders?

Great leaders lead by example.

The classic “monkey see monkey do” mentality refers to both the primitive brain structures that help us form daily habits and the specific neuronal networks in the brain—mirror neurons[2]—that allow us to observe others’ activity. When we watch others perform tasks, these neuronal systems become active and fire similar brain regions in our brains that would be needed to perform similar tasks and actions.

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Actions will always speak louder than words in the workplace because actions lead to execution and results. Knowledge is useless without application, which is why authentic leaders choose to lead with their actions and not just their words.

1. Bring the Best Version of Yourself

To get the best out of your people, you need to get the best out of yourself first. The doctor who tells the patient to stop smoking right after they stepped out of the office for a cigarette is not only a hypocrite; they’re also setting a poor example for their patient to follow.

Anyone who is a parent knows how this equation plays out in the long run with raising children[3]. The things you tell your kids not to do end up becoming a habit of theirs because they’re too busy watching you do it while avoiding what you told them not to do.

The same is true for leaders in the workplace. If you expect your employees to be on time, ready to go, and at work early, you better be willing to set the example for them. Not just once, but repeatedly over time. Practicing what you preach will build trust and benefit company culture.

These coveted office relationships built out of trust and respect are reciprocally advantageous for the overall health and well being of the respective parties. A recent Gallup poll uncovered evidence suggesting direct reports experience a 15% greater chance of thriving and overall improved well-being due to their immediate supervisors having higher levels of well being[4].

Company culture is continuously sliding on a spectrum due to the continually evolving array of actions, outcomes, and emotions mixed into a business setting. This concept is vital for a multitude of reasons.

Leaders Should Set the Example

It’s the leader’s responsibility to set an example for their coworkers. If you’ve ever been in a situation where someone tells you one thing and does the complete opposite, you’ve experienced this disconnect. It’s unsettling at best and subsequently causes you to lose trust in that individual.

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Change Starts With Leaders

Leaders must be the change they wish to see in their organization and business. Company initiatives may sound great in theory, but they rarely take hold and grow if people don’t support it through taking action. Checking a box is far more comfortable than changing behaviors.

Leaders Motivate Others to Improve

When you show changes through your actions, it’s far easier for your team members and coworkers to do the same. Improved collaboration and communication through teamwork is estimated to increase employee productivity by nearly 20-25%[5].

If teamwork can genuinely make the dream work, leaders of the future need to realize the importance of integration, taking action, and supporting your company initiatives through high-level communication.

2. Be an Effective Communicator

Communication is the foundation for success in business and life. Nothing noteworthy gets done without effective communication, but not all communication is created equally.

Humans are social animals. There’s no way to argue around it, which is why communication and honest conversation can be one of the most efficient ways to lead your people and business to success.

Communication is so much more than the words we use[6]. It’s how we use our bodies and make facial expressions, which can hide in the words we say and choose not to say.

Choosing not to say something is also a decision made, which could have dire consequences for those who listen well enough to pick up on it. True leaders listen far more than they speak, but they listen to understand and find ways to solve problems with follow-up comments and questions, which is a great way to lead by example.

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High-level leaders understand the importance of communication, pair it together with associated soft skills of listening intentionally, asking questions, and using simple gestures for approval, such as a head nod or smile.

In a world full of digital distractions, chatbots, online messaging, and web-based communication, we lose the humanistic communication component. For many, this lack of human connection can change the culture of the office.

Effective communicators know the difficulties in these practices, as there will always be conversations that need to happen that are uncomfortable, concerning, and confrontational in nature. Real leaders must be willing to toss their ego aside to have these conversations because they know the temporary struggle is worth the long term outcomes of success and improved outcomes.

Leaders who cannot have difficult conversations or share their real opinions on matters will be accomplices to the corporation’s slow bleed and gradual degradation. The corporate culture of the 21st century won’t have time to tolerate those who beat around the bush and use ineffective means of communication. These individuals will be left behind and have no chance to find their way back.

3. Show Empathy

Emotional intelligence is arguably one of the most important traits for leaders to possess in the 21st-century workplace. It’s a guiding factor for long-term success[7] and building relationships, among many other factors.

One of the greatest strengths of emotional intelligence is the ability to show empathy towards your colleagues, coworkers, and office personnel, so make it an integral part of your practice when you lead by example.

Placing yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand their perspective isn’t easy, but it’s one of the quickest ways to build trust and show that you care. It’s also a great way to build long-term relationships that can improve company culture[8].

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Skills strengthened by empathy to lead by example

    Leaders who show empathy set the tone for future interactions and conversations, especially with the hard conversations that are inevitable in the workplace[9]. Over 90% of HR professionals, CEO’s, and employees believe empathy is an essential factor in the proper functioning of a workplace[10]. In fact, it’s so important that 8 in 10 employees stated that they are willing to leave a job or employer who isn’t empathetic[11].

    Empathy in the workplace can also significantly improve the company’s overall health and well-being[12], with medical institutions and hospitals now teaching medical professionals how to use empathy in the clinic to enhance their patient outcomes. And since we can improve[13] and grow our ability to use empathy, it’s a skill that should continuously be groomed and worked on overtime.

    The Bottom Line

    As a leader, your actions and words are always under the microscope. The team members who depend on you for guidance and execution seek this constant feedback. While actions will always speak louder than words, your words and communication style need to be in alignment with what you do as you lead by example.

    While it may seem trivial, consistently coming up short with actions and words will lead to more significant problems down the road as colleagues lose trust in your abilities to fulfill your duties.

    Trust and respect can’t be demanded; they must be earned, especially in the workplace. Titles and roles can only carry your responsibilities so far, which means that it is up to you to take these steps and implement them into your daily habits.

    Consistency is the easiest way to build your reputation as a leader who can execute on tasks, develop your team, and grow your company’s platform.

    More on How to Lead by Example

    Featured photo credit: CoWomen via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Erik Reis

    Peak-Performance Leadership Consultant

    How To Give An Undivided Attention To Be More Productive 4 Effective Ways To Improve Your Work Performance Greatly Here’s What To Do When You Are Getting Exhausted At Work 3 Powerful Ways To Lead By Example At Work 5 Ways to Maximize Productivity While Working From Home

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    Last Updated on March 23, 2021

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

    The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

    You need more than time management. You need energy management

    1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

    How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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    I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

    I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

    2. Determine your “peak hours”

    Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

    Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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    My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

    In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

    Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

    3. Block those high-energy hours

    Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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    Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

    If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

    That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

    There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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    Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

    Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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