Typically, I choose to be up and at it long before the rest of my family would even fathom waking up.
Heck, by the time their eyes open, I’ve gone to the gym, showered, put in several hours at work and enjoyed my usual Starbucks.
But the other morning was different. Everyone had been feeling a bit under the weather, myself included, so I slept in a bit and woke up just before the kids would and jumped in the shower.
While showering, I heard some moving around, and then a little head popped it’s way into the shower as my four year old son stood there asking if he can join me.
Knowing that time flies, I said of course and helped him into the shower.
Once we we’re done, we got out, grabbed some towels and dried off – and that’s when I noticed something. Through the corner of his eye, he was watching – and mimicking – my every move.
If I dried my back, he dried his back.
If I dried my legs, he dried his legs.
If I dried under my feet, he dried under my feet.
If I dried my hair, he dried his hair.
Almost without delay, and in his own off-balance, trying to maneuver this giant towel kind of way, he followed my step by step.
“Boy, if only parenting was that easy!” and then it hit me… It can be.
Now, I’m not here to debate the metrics of parenting, but I have three kids, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, they’re always watching and repeating.
If I’m rude at my wife, they’re rude at their mom, or their teacher, or their future spouse.
But if I show love, affection and caring for my wife, they repeat that as well.
If I’m patient in tough times, they’re patient in tough times. If I lose my cool and over-react, they repeat that as well.
If I clean up after myself, they clean up after themselves.
If I…. then they…
If I had a nickel for the amount of times I’ve heard a parent tell their child to eat healthier while downing a coffee, or smoking, or drinking a soda, or…
We, as parents, are leaders. Our children watch how we treat others, ourselves, strangers, friends, family, coworkers, and even them. They watch how we eat, drink, walk, talk, think, react, care, have passion, compassion, empathy, entitlement and generosity. They watch how we carry ourselves, how we spend our savings, how we treat our home and how we care for pets.
The good, the bad, the ugly. They observe and repeat.
I’m not suggesting that parenting is this “cut and dry”, this black and white, or that this is all there is too it. Let’s not be naive here. But I am suggesting it’s very important. Essential even.
And the worst part is that when there’s a conflict between the words I say, the instructions I give, and my actions, the child becomes confused and doesn’t know what to do.
But it doesn’t end there.
As a business leader, you’re in the same boat.
As an entrepreneur, you’re leading your clients, your staff and even your vendors.
And when the values that you, as an individual, don’t match those you are trying to convey as a business, you are inefficient as a leader.
In business terms, you have a branding issue.
If you own a fitness studio or health and wellness establishment and are trying to lead your staff and your community towards a healthy lifestyle, and you as an owner are overweight, there’s conflict. There’s a break in the line between the message you’re saying, and the actions you’re taking. And clients get confused. Staff gets conflicted. And people feel that.
In fact, the opposite is also true.
I remember once I was having a frank conversation with a “plus size” retailer, and the owner was telling me that sales drop when they hire a “non-plus size” employee. Clients come in for plus size items, and are more comfortable dealing with someone who leads a similar life.
As a parent, as an entrepreneur, as a staff member, you are a LEADER.
I know it’s overused and cliché, but in order to be truly effective as a leader, you must lead by example.
I challenge you to take a look at your business and ask yourself “Do the words I say match my actions?”.
And if they don’t, adjust as needed.
But always remember, they’re watching!
To your success,
P.S.: Don’t forget that this isn’t just about leading by example, it’s about ethical duty. If you believe in your product, if you believe that your clients should have, use and enjoy your product, you have an ethical duty to make sure you lead by example for their own benefit – not yours. If you truly believe your product or service adds value to your clients, you are morally obligated to do everything in your power to lead them to that same conclusion.