“Every time you take off early or give yourself that perk you always wanted, you could unknowingly be demotivating someone. I’ve seen some egregious examples of this over the years.”
Leadership by example has been, and probably always will be, a cornerstone of good management. It’s hard to get people to do something you don’t do yourself.
Not that I don’t understand aging firm owners who don’t want to work as hard as they once did, or get some perks that perhaps help pay off the years of sacrifice they have made. But every time you take off early or give yourself that perk you always wanted, you could unknowingly be demotivating someone. I’ve seen some egregious examples of this over the years. One company had assigned principal parking spots right by the front door when everyone else had to walk blocks from the employee lot to the office in a place that had brutal winter weather. Not good for morale!
Where setting the right example really comes into play is business travel. If the boss flies first class and the grunts are expected to fly on Allegiant Air, that’s a problem. Some employees won’t comply. Ditto for high-end hotels when everyone else is expected to stay at a Days Inn, or meals at expensive restaurants when the plebs are supposed to eat at Applebee’s. Getting in late and taking two-and-half-hour lunches won’t work unless you want everyone else to do that. Neither will drinking at lunch if this is supposed to be prohibited. The behavior you model will be the behavior everyone else in the firm displays.
Setting the right example is not all about taking time off, or travel, or other perks, either. It is about doing the right thing. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard principals complain about their people not turning in their timesheets and expense reports yet accounting tells me the very same principals are the worst offenders. Unacceptable behavior!
And how are clients being treated? Do the principals have their calls screened and not reply to emails or texts that come in after 5 or on weekends? If so, what makes you think other employees are going to drop everything and jump when a client needs it. They won’t. The wrong example is being set.
Monkey see, monkey do. It is a fundamental principle of leadership. Stop making excuses for yours and your fellow principals’ behavior. And get serious about leading through example. You’ll be glad you did!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.