Leadership is a powerful thing. Associate are watching just about everything you do and say. From their observations, they take their cues about what is expected, what’s important, what’s funny, what’s approved and disapproved of, and so on. Your words and actions actually have the power to shape the direction of a person’s life, and certainly their career.
Let me tell you a story about a leader whose words altered my life direction. I went to high school in the small country town in Texas. There were two things I loved most about high school, basketball and my agriculture/shop class. I pretty much loved all things outdoors, including my horse, calf, chickens and fishing in the stock tank near my house. Our school Ag/shop program served as the local free vet service to all the farmers around. It also served as the fence, gate, trailer, and squeeze shoot builders for everybody in the county, and consistently won first place in regional county fair shop competitions.
I loved it so much that in my junior year I began to dream about becoming a Veterinarian. I had no idea what it took to be a vet, so I spoke to “Doc” Price, my Ag teacher, whom I highly respected. Not only was Doc a great guy, but he was the only person in town who had a Master’s Degree, so surely his advice on something like this should be followed, right?
I’ll never forget his response to my inquiry. He said, “Tony, if you want to be a Veterinarian you are going to have to hold an “A” average in English”. Talking about getting the wind knocked out of my sails, there was no way I could get my grades in English up to an A average in the next year. I could have made straight As through the rest of high school and still couldn’t have averaged an A. In my mind, the man, the leader, the person whom I looked up to most, just told me that becoming a Vet was virtually impossible.
I now know that he said those words to encourage me to buckle down and study, but they did more than that. They really discouraged me for a while, and changed my life trajectory, sending me on a different career discovery path.
His words have also served to help me understand the power of my words as a leader. So, I challenge you with these questions:
- Am I careful in the use of my words to, and around my Associates?
- Do my words help people grow and develop, or do they tear down and destroy?
- Are my words encouraging or discouraging to those I lead?
- How do I respond/react to Associates when they have completed a job successfully?
- How do I respond/react to Associates when they make a mistake?
- What is the tone they hear from me in our daily interactions?
- Do I make my expectations clear enough for them to follow?
- Do they know and really believe that I care about them as a person?
- Do I really care about them as a person?
- Do I welcome their ideas, criticisms and questions, or do my words and actions I shut them down, leaving them feeling as if, “we don’t pay them to think”?
- Do my interactions with those I lead leave them better off or worse?
- What one or two things will I do differently to ensure my words are positively impacting those I lead?
All this to remind you to be intentional with your words and actions, knowing they are shaping the future of those you lead.