Leaders are Role Models … So Make Every Opportunity Count!
With our required focus as leaders on growing market share, exceeding client expectations, delivering ROI, staying competitive, meeting shareholders’ expectations and hiring and retaining top talent, it’s easy to forget that while we go about achieving these goals, we serve as a role model to the employees and stakeholders we encounter.
When we take on a leadership role, and even while we continue to develop as leaders, we can overlook this important part of our job. As leaders, we have the opportunity and responsibility to represent company values, to lead by example, to emulate the leaders we admire, and to be the best leader we can be. What does this mean in practice?
Walk the Talk
Company culture is a true differentiator today and is a key piece of the puzzle when attracting top talent. As part of their due diligence, top talent assesses a company’s culture prior to joining; one way they can do this is by checking if the current leaders are aligned with the stated values before they decide to join a team. So, it’s important that leaders reflect the values they represent and act according to these values – to in effect ‘role model’ the values in the workplace.
How do leaders do this? Here are a few ideas.
Customer focus. If one of your values is customer focus, for example, as the leader, do you carve out a role for yourself with your top clients, do you act in an Executive Sponsor role? Are you committing yourself to a certain number of sales visits each week or do you leave that to your sales team? And, when a challenging customer situation arises, (and they always do!) do you attend the tough client call with your team or let them figure it out alone? These are just a few examples of how you can make an impact in truly leading a customer first culture. Customer focus starts from the top down and permeates an organization.
Innovation. Another good example, if one of your values is to be innovative – consider if you are open to grassroots development of innovative ideas and if there is funding available to advance these ideas, or, are the innovative ideas directed centrally – from the top down? One way we advanced this locally, was to introduce a ‘Curious Mind’ award annually for the best innovative ideas presented each quarter. The winner not only received monetary compensation but also was given a spot on the annual Superstars trip.
Diversity. One last example, if one of your values is to be an inclusive and diverse workplace – this means championing talent that reflects our diverse world. This starts at the recruitment phase with widening the search pool and targeting key demographics to ensure you are conducting a broad inclusive search. Once you attract diverse talent, it is then important to look at your track record of providing training and promotional opportunities for diverse candidates. Are there any inherent biases in your hiring/training and promotional criteria? Do you give equal opportunity to all qualified candidates even if there are cultural differences?
It also means, when you have an opportunity to provide employees with development opportunities – do you consider if your participants reflect your value to be an inclusive and diverse workplace? This can be as simple as reviewing who is asked to speak on an all colleague call, be on a panel, or present at a webinar/meeting? It is inspiring for employees to see leaders who look and speak like they do in leadership positions. Are you presenting opportunities for all or just some? When I stepped down from Country Manager last year and moved into my new role, I heard from one colleague who had worked with me closely that she valued that a woman of colour such as her could be in a position of influence in the organization and how much she appreciated having this opportunity. It reinforced to me just how important it is for leaders to advance company values by taking deliberate action. Employees are paying attention.
As role models, we all need to think about how we can make the values on our corporate vision statements more real each day in our workplace. Look for opportunities to put the values into practice and if we do that as leaders – we will be more authentic and aligned with common values we share at work and a true role model.