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I learned it by watching you

Tom Wall Published on 09 October 2012

Back in 1993, NBA All-Star Charles Barkley found himself in the middle of a national debate because of what he said in a shoe commercial for Nike. It was a simple message, “I am not a role model.”

Not a stranger to controversy, Sir Charles defended his statement. Essentially, the point of his argument was that his job was to be good at playing basketball, while a parent’s job is to be a role model for their kids and raise them well.



Now, had Barkley softened his message and said “I should not be considered a role model,” chances are there would’ve been less of a debate. But let’s face it, perception is reality. If kids aspire to be famous athletes, musicians or TV stars, they’ll look up to the people who already are.

Regardless of whether we agree or disagree with Barkley’s “role model” statement, I think most of us would agree that kids are extremely observant and easily influenced by the beliefs and behaviors of the people around them.

So what about your employees? Do you think your employees are influenced by the actions of you, their manager? Unfortunately, it seems that many employees usually don’t copy the sense of responsibility and attention to detail that most owners demonstrate. But that doesn’t mean employees aren’t paying attention to what you’re doing.

Like a politician on the campaign trail, as a leader in your company, you are “always on.” Whether it’s fair or not, your employees are paying close attention to everything you say and do. Sure it’s cliché, but you really do “lead by example.” And that doesn’t just apply to rolling up your sleeves to show you’re willing to get your hands dirty.

Ultimately, leading by example refers to how you handle each interaction you have with your employees. So, how consistent are your actions from one person or situation to the next? If they’re not consistent, do you realize that you are losing credibility and jeopardizing trust? Even if you have a “good reason” for what you do, your employees’ perception becomes their reality.


Let’s face it, many of your employees probably won’t appreciate how much you do or comprehend how your decisions help keep the place running every day. After all, managing doesn’t always look like “work” to the people with dirty boots.

Most likely, your employees view managing as “easy things” like walking around, working on a computer and talking to people. Now, if all you’re doing is wandering around, playing on the computer and “shooting the bull” with everyone, your employees might be right!

But at the same time, it’s your company and you’re the boss. You don’t owe your employees an explanation for what you do. But as your team’s leader, you’re still accountable to them. You see, regardless of a person’s age or title, most of us want someone we can believe in ... someone we can count on to show us the way.

Your team is no different. Every day, your people are looking for a leader to follow. So, what do you think? Is that person you? PD

Tom Wall
Dairy Interactive, LLC