Leads by example

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One of the activities the participants in my retail coaching program do is a self-assessment evaluating themselves in a number of characteristics of successful coaches. The participants first choose three strengths and three areas of opportunities, and then distill that down to his/her number one strengths and area of opportunity, or what I would call a weakness.

One of the characteristics is “leads by example.” Not surprisingly, managers and owners pick this characteristic as a strength more than just about any other. Even less surprising is that nobody ever chooses leads by example as a weakness.

Until yesterday. I confess I was caught off guard when a manager said that “leads by example” is her biggest area of improvement. When I asked her why, she explained that she is a great sales motivator, but falls short of her own sales goals.

Love it!

The more I thought about it the more I realized that “leads by example” is one of those sayings that most owners/executives/managers don’t even think through. They’re in charge, so of course they lead by example.

Or do they?

Most leaders I work with are very good at talking their values. They tell their teams that customers come first, and how important the customer experience or customer service is, and so on. But do their actions show it?

Here’s what I’ve come to understand. Most leaders believe what they say, but they don’t benchmark their own actions against those standards. They don’t consciously not walk their talk, but their actions aren’t always congruent with that they’re telling their team.

Most of the time they are leading by example. And there’s the big clue: the word “most.” “Most of the time” doesn’t cut it as a leader. Your employees listen to what you say, but they follow your lead in what you do.

Miss a chance to lead by example and you tell your team that customers come first most of the time, and how important the customer experience or customer service is most of the time.

I’m not saying you have to be perfect. I have yet to meet a perfect leader. But we do need to strive to lead by example as much as we can, especially in highly visible activities like making your own sales goal. How can you drive the importance of sales every day of the month and then not make your own sales? Yes, it can be explained away. Doesn’t matter. Your employees listen to what you say, but follow your lead in what you do.

I’m really proud of the managers on yesterday’s call who stepped up and said they need to improve in “leads by example.” They are good coaches and leaders, but they’re on their way to being even better.

So let me ask, is there any area in which you need to step up more and lead by example?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Doug Fleener
As the former director of retail for Bose Corporation and an independent retailer himself, Doug has the unique experience and ability to help companies of all sizes. Doug is a retail and customer experience consultant, keynote speaker and a recognized expert worldwide.

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