By Peter Kozodoy, partner and chief strategy officer of GEM Advertising.
When we opened up three remote offices in 2015, we met the challenges of managing a remote team head-on. We worried our core values would get diluted with distance, particularly since our family-style office setting and the closeness thereof was such a contributing factor to our culture. When my team across the continent couldn't see me, things started to get a bit off-course. I quickly learned that the idea of "leading by example" was an incomplete and ineffective system.
Have you ever been taught to "lead by example?" Chances are, you've heard this at least once in your life. The idea is that if you model a desired behavior, others around you will simply fall in line and mimic your behaviors.
That sounds well and good, but I can tell you firsthand that this advice doesn't reflect real life. What happens when an employee doesn't get the message? What do you do when a colleague wants to do it her way instead?
Changing these organizational behaviors isn't simply a matter of being an upstanding role model, because as leaders, we must cater to individual tastes, preferences and whims within a (hopefully) diverse team of viewpoints.
Here are four guidelines I've followed to become a more effective leader that you can use to course correct the behaviors of your team:
- Hire correctly. If you've hired based on your culture and values rather than by skill set, you should already have an advantage in correcting the behaviors of your team. Remind your people that you hired them because they fit within the brand's core values, and that those core values dictate what the "proper" behavior must be. Make it clear that those who go against the core values of the organization will have no place in the organization in the long term.
- Make assessments individually. People behave differently in a "pack" than they do individually. Pull individuals aside and connect with them on a personal level to address their behaviors. Most often, people will admit that they know exactly how to behave, but were distracted by the group. Get to the root of this problem (the individual who was causing the behavior to begin with) and decide whether to "cut the weed" or nurture it.
- Use bumpers. You know those bumpers used in bowling alleys? People need bumpers at work too -- especially when it comes to behaviors and values. Do what The Ritz-Carlton does: Each morning, small teams of departmental-level employees get together for a few minutes and talk through a core value (they call it a "gold standard.") In the meeting, team members are asked to give an example of someone who has exemplified a core value behavior. This is a great way to keep people steadily aimed towards on-brand behaviors.
- Separate facts from feelings. If a rogue colleague or fellow executive is exhibiting a behavioral problem, the stakes are even higher for aligning his or her behavior with the core values of the organization. In this scenario, you might have to use a more hands-on technique, like the "facts and feelings" method. First, you physically write out all of the facts regarding the disagreement from both perspectives. Then, you write out all of the feelings associated with those facts. Writing down facts and feelings for both parties to see will help inform both of you how to proceed. In fact, someone may only get halfway through this exercise before realizing they are clearly and objectively at odds with the proper behavior. This method reiterates which party is acting selfishly, and which has the brand's core values at heart.
Leading by example sounds nice, but it's not as effective as you'll need it to be in the real world. Use these four guidelines instead, and you'll be ready to lead with the strength of your brand's core values behind you.
Peter Kozodoy is an author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and chief strategy officer of GEM Advertising.