The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Friday, August 2, 2013

YOU ARE DEFINED BY WHAT YOU DO - NOT WHAT YOU SAY

Perhaps it is just human nature that when the “going gets tough” most of us start blaming someone else.  It is rare that, during the heat of an argument, someone will stop the conversation to take responsibility for the misunderstanding by saying, “Don’t worry about it – it was not your fault.  I totally messed up and take the blame for the problems we’re having.”  More often than not an argument is peppered with “It is your fault!” or “We never would have been in this position had it not been for you!”

Imagine living in a glass house – where everything we say or do is open for critique and criticism.  Nothing is “secret” or “private” when it comes to the choices we make or the actions we take.  Such is the reality of leadership – and the tremendous weight of responsibility placed upon a leader’s shoulders by those looking up to him or her.  Extending this “glass house” concept fully to management (whether it be managing a company, a department or providing leadership to a family), it is hard to convince others to NOT do something when they see you do similar things yourself.  How can you expect your employees to adhere to an “eight to five” schedule if your own day frequently begins at eight fifteen or ends at four thirty?  (Forget about the fact that you might have been doing company business the previous night, or that lunch was more of a thought than a action, or that breaks are not part of the daily routine…people SEE you coming in late, or leaving early, and expect that to apply to them, too.)  Parents tell their children to obey the rules (as they break the speed limit driving them somewhere), to listen to their teachers (as they complain about the “boss that does not know anything”), and to take time to enjoy life (when they are “too busy doing their own thing” to play catch in the yard). Far too many manage by edict rather than by example – a technique that might produce temporary results but cannot possibly create loyalty, respect or independent decision-making skills. We cannot be perfect, but some rules I would suggest for managing life (by living in a glass house) would include:

  • Recognize that your actions speak far more loudly than do your words.  Some may hear what we say but EVERYONE sees what we do.  As a child I was taught, “seeing is believing.”  Never was I told that “hearing makes things right.”  Whether you deal with people as a manager, a peer, a friend, or as part of a family, those around you establish their perception of you by what you do…by how you act…not by the things you say about yourself.  To be viewed as credible you must ACT credibly.
  • Look for the good in others, loudly praising their positive actions and interactions while quietly addressing their shortcomings.  People usually see what others do wrong…rarely recognizing or acknowledging what they do right.  As I go through the store I rarely hear a parent saying, “You are really being a good shopper today!” to their child.  Rather it’s “don’t touch,” “wait until we get home,” and “I am never going to bring you shopping again!”  Recently a generation of “if you be good I will give you something” has surfaced – again the focus being on the prevention of negative behavior rather than the encouragement of good action.  Though we need to address negative behavior to correct it, we should also make an effort to acknowledge and verbalize appreciation for things done well.  The next time you are involved in a heated debate with someone you care about, rather than saying “This is all your fault!” try to assume some of the responsibility yourself.  People tend to react better when they know not only what they should not do (or have done) but also what they did (or are about to do) well!
  • Never throw bricks when you live in a glass house.  Though you may open the window before tossing your criticism out at a friend or co-worker, they rarely take the time to open the door before returning fire.  I have often heard people defend their inappropriate actions by shifting focus and blame…by saying “…but you did such and such so do not get on me!”  When we view life as if we were living in a glass house – fully exposed to those around us with no place to hide our own errors and secrets – we find ourselves more understanding not only of what others do but also of the REASONS they do things.  We are less apt to see fault in them when we first examine ourselves to make sure that we are without fault – especially if we recognize that they are looking at us through clear glass!
  • Judge yourself using the same standards you apply to others.  The greatest leaders of our times would never ask others to do what they would not do themselves.  Truly great generals led their troops into battle rather than following them from behind.  Parents must “walk the talk” if they want their children to learn.  Managers cannot expect loyalty, efficiency and a good utilization of time from their employees without demonstrating it themselves.

When we live as though we are in a glass house – without shades or coverings to hide what we are – we begin to concentrate on what we should be doing rather than focusing on what others should not be doing.  When our actions speak louder than our words – when they begin to reinforce the things we intentionally set out to do – others will follow our example rather than our edict.  They will seek our approval rather than seeking to escape our criticism.  They will absorb our praise and grow towards the light rather than being sheltered from reality out of fear of failure.

We all live in a glass house of some kind – our thoughts, actions and attitudes on public display for the world to see.  Perhaps we should take the time to wash the windows in our glass homes – it might help as much light shine in as we wish to shed on those around us!