Walk the talk

Exemplary behaviour

People are more influenced by what someone does than by what they say. Saying something and not doing it doesn't work. A leader is someone who is able to set the right example.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” (Robert Fulghum)

Example behaviour is creating predictability: do what you also expect others to do.
In managing their employees, managers seem mainly focused on mastering knowledge and skills. Only when an employee's attitude or behaviour deviates is he or she called to account. The question is whether a corrective approach really motivates.

A more positive approach is when the employee sees the right, desired behaviour in his manager.

Do you recognise this example?

In a company, there is an agreement that the gardens between the various company buildings on the site are not to be entered.
One day, the production manager leaves the production hall and rushes to another meeting in the administration building. He is in a hurry and decides to take the shortest route, across the garden. Some employees noticed this. A while later, it appears that employees who have to go from one building to another also take the shortcut. The grass disappears under the many footsteps; an "elephant path" is created.

And do you recognise this example?

A company chooses to introduce a Lean culture. This includes streamlining processes, detecting and eliminating losses, making the production process central and giving each manager a subservient role towards the production workers. Supervisors adapt their own leadership behaviour: they are systematic in the workplace, meeting upright at production boards in the workplace. They are immediately and directly available and approachable to every employee, are decisive and solve problems quickly....
Leaders are not (anymore) in ivory towers, in conclaves, in their own maelstrom. They have become part of the basic process. This concrete example behaviour ensures that everyone is driven to manage, control and improve the existing processes quickly and effectively.
As a manager, you have to be very conscious of your behaviour in the workplace. Everyone observes and sees your behaviour. Your behaviour is perceived as the norm. People start mirroring it. Your behaviour is a point of reference. By behaving as the leader behaves, the employee tries to confirm to the internal culture. One develops the same attitude, tics, forms of humour, taste.
To create and secure a behavioural culture, as a leader you deploy exemplary behaviour with your head, your heart and your hands. With your head, you look together with employees for the best solutions and methodologies to realise and support the culture. With your heart, you are involved, motivated and experience the behavioural culture. With your hands, you convert the culture into action.

A Lean leader in a Lean culture

The leader works according to his own standard working arrangements around e.g. work meetings, follow-up, visual management, reporting. He is disciplined. He is a teacher and a coach, wants to know and understand and involves others in seeking continuous improvements. He is motivated to implement the Lean way of working, feels how others are involved in this process and is passionate about getting others excited about the Lean way of working. Action happens in the workplace and that is exactly where he is most of the time.

Exemplary behaviour is building credibility: be authentic

It is a concrete translation of the intended corporate culture, with associated corporate values.
For example: if "passion for continuous improvement" is a core value within a Lean culture, then it is concrete leader behaviour: never be satisfied with the status quo and talk about it with employees, stimulate them around this and make problems and opportunities to improve visible, ask the right, open questions, follow up and discuss improvements and projects daily.

The manager must be aware of his own personal values and principles, and link them to those of the organisation. He must show colour. If not, exemplary behaviour remains artificial, unreal and less effective.
He builds credibility because he shows integrity in the personal connection with others.

Exemplary behaviour is encouraging reciprocity: learn from each other

If management sets a good example, the rest of the organisation will obviously not automatically follow. Many interaction processes play a role in a company: the way employees interact as people, attitudes, habits and forms of communication.
An exemplary leader genuinely wants to engage employees, to take them in tow. He wants to inspire but at the same time allows feedback on his behaviour. After all, he is also willing to learn and effectively adjust his behaviour according to the organisation's interests.

Exemplary behaviour is final: connecting

Between direction and style, between company values and personal views, between inspiration and aspiration, between implicit culture and concrete codes of conduct, between manager and employee. Strong companies are those in which exemplary behaviour is consciously included in the agenda.

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