Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Truest Mirror

There is a great song called "Watching You" by Rodney Atkins about how children watch and mimic us at our best and at our worst. It was a sweet and funny song until the first time my sweet little toddler said "s$@t" when he couldn't get his duplos to snap together. I had to suppress a small bit of pride that he had used it in the right context and make a split decision about what to do. Since he was 16 months at the time I ignored it and immediately took the word out of my vocabulary. (Since I get excited about every new word, this worked...this time.).

What I learned is that he is taking in every single thing I do and say. I started practicing saying please and thank you and encouraging his use of them and he is often the first to say it now when someone holds the door for me while pushing the stroller. 

It made me think about developing others. You can tell people to do things until you are blue in the face but if you are not modeling the practice you probably won't have much success. Why, because your actions demonstrate the true value (or lack of value) you place on the practice. Unfortunately, the same message can be received if others just don't see the actions you do (think personal development, work/life balance, learning from your mistakes, corrective action with non-performing employees, and decision-making processes).  How do you model the behavior you want when it is not always necessary (or appropriate in the case of working with non-performaing employees) to act in front of those you lead?

Perhaps what you are modeling is behavior change.  With personal development for example, your employees may not see you reading a book about leadership or journaling about what what went well and what didn't, but if they see you changing things up and improving while hearing you talk about the concepts in the book they will get the benefit of the modeled behavior.  Similarly, they may not see you working with non-performing employees, but if they see the behaviors change over time they learn to trust that you are dealing with issues.

With the other things like learning from your mistakes, decision-making processes, and work/life balance you may have to share a bit to truly model the behavior.  Nobody wants to tell others they have made a mistake but if you truly want others to learn to acknowledge, repair, and prevent the mistake in the future they need to see that it is okay to do so.

Do you consciously model certain behaviors that are important to you?  Do you notice yourself improving as you are trying to help others do so just from the modeling process?  Share your stories!