It is hard to convince others to NOT do something when they see you doing or saying things them (“Do as I say, not as I do” is not an initiator of credibility and respect). 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 an action, or that breaks are not part of the daily routine – people SEEING you come to work late or WATCHING you leave early assume the same casual attitude themselves. 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 their boss who 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). We want others to treat us with respect while we dis-respect others, to look up to our leadership while we look down upon those we lead and to listen to our ideas while we close our minds to the suggestions and ideas of those we wish to hear us. While people cannot be perfect, we all live in glass houses –others tend to hear what we say and see what we do even if we seek to hide our actions, intents and attitudes behind closed doors. Since truth (and reality) is stronger than the tales we tell or the actions we try to put forth, some rules for living in a glass house would include:
1) Our actions speak far more loudly than do our words. Others may hear what we say but they see what we do. As a child I was taught that “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 – their beliefs, values, understanding and respect – by what you do and how you act rather than by the things you say about yourself. To be viewed as credible you must ACT incredibly.
2) Look for the good in others rather than identifying (and correcting) the bad. People usually see what others do wrong, rarely recognizing or acknowledging what they do right. I rarely hear a stressed parent tell their child that he or she is being a good shopper when rushing through the store, but the pleas of “don’t touch,” “wait until we get home,” and “I am never bringing you to the store again!” can be heard continuously. Though we need to confront negative behavior if it is to be corrected, we should also make an effort to acknowledge and verbalize appreciation for things done well – modeling the behavior by saying what we do (or wish to have happen) then doing it ourselves (rather than holding ourselves above the laws that apply to others).
3) 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 deferring their own “wrong” by positioning it as being “less serious” than the misstep of another – rather than admitting to the mistake and taking intentional action to correct it (and resolve any repercussions that it may have put into motion). When we view life as if we were living in a glass house – our actions, thoughts and intentions fully revealed and exposed to those around us leaving no place to hide our own errors and secrets – we find ourselves more understanding of the shortcomings of others, the reasons they might (or might not) do things, and less apt to see fault in them without first making sure that we are without fault ourselves.
4) Judge yourself first 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” for their children. Managers cannot expect full productivity, efficiency and dedication to the organization without first giving it themselves. Focus on results or specific actions that could have contributed to undesired results when addressing individual inadequacies rather than the person who created the problem or failed to produce the result. It is far easier to change results by providing an alternative pathway than it is to modify behavior by telling someone what you do not like. Judge yourself by identifying your role or contribution – your own action (or inaction) that may have been partially responsible for the shortcoming – before judging others.