Ten Tips for Leading by Example

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

By Mary Hladio

It’s easy to complain about the boss sometimes. Many of us are guilty of the “If I were running things, it would be different!” rant among co-workers. But, it’s not always easy being on top and the boss likely doesn’t always associate you with blue skies and rainbows either. Take the initiative in your organization in employee relations, go above and beyond to create a happier, more productive work environment. 

1.  Adult Whining

This  is not only unappealing, in the workplace it is especially annoying. Providing details about troubles with the neighbors to how the noise above your desk is affecting your ability to think clearly all the time, is not what your boss had in mind when asking, “How’s your day?”

Conversely, don’t overdo it; the boss’s idea was probably not the best thing since sliced bread or the joke she just told knee-slapping material. Your boss wants feedback on meeting company objectives in a positive and constructive manner. Not a yes person or a naysayer.

2. The Sky is Falling
Closely related to adult whining is the attitude that the world is against us. There will be things that are out of your control. These things may not even be influenced by your boss. The CEO just slashed the budget. A customer went to a competitor. Economic conditions are not favorable. These situations happen, and now it is time to deal with the aftermath. Complaining about the situation will not help. Let’s have conversations about what is possible.

3. Approval Denied
Don’t bring in theories or proposals to your superiors that have not been thoroughly researched. For example, outsourcing can transfer unsolved issues to a third party and often create new issues. Installing a new software package is not going to increase efficiency overnight. There are many factors to consider like the upfront cost of these solutions or the hassles of defining new processes and procedures. Do the required legwork to recognize those factors. Bosses are much more grateful when comprehensive plans, ready for action are presented to them for approval (that’s why they hired you).

4. Got Transparency?
Do not bury important information in a six-page report or an email trail or fake that you don’t how to do a task to get out of doing a project. Don't swearing you didn’t get a report or email and  then when you discover you did get this information create an elaborate excuse; own up to it.

If you made a mistake, don’t hide it. Your boss knows that mistakes happen. He wants you to learn from them. If less than favorable news or results arise, just tell the boss. It will build his confidence in you either way. So speak up, take your punches, and be accountable for your actions.

5. Put it to Pen and Paper
Bottom Line, come to the meeting prepared. If you boss calls you into the office—it isn’t for a nice chat— bring pen and paper to take notes or your laptop. When given a project, it is at that time to ask questions, not a week later. And be up to date on the progress of your assigned projects for meetings or when the boss stops by to ask, “How is it going?”

6. Weak and Meek
This one is especially true for women. Stop apologizing for problems, mistakes or issues that are not your fault or responsibility, just to avoid conflict. This may be endearing at home but, this is a place of business and conflict is part of the package. Avoiding difficult conversations only delays the quandary. This includes shifting responsibility just to avoid giving bad news or hiding behind email or voicemail.

7. In the Eyes of a Child
There should be no need to blind copy someone, especially your boss in an email. It is childish. It is akin to running home to tell Mom. Grow up; if you are going to copy your boss on the email do it in the open and state why you decided to include him or her in the conversation.

8. Email Wars
Other annoying behaviors your boss hates: the email war and the email saga. The volleying of emails back and forth, especially if you are copying the boss or what can seem like the entire company, will put you on the fast track to nowhere. Do not send important messages or begin conservations about real issues via email. Email can’t convey body language or voice tone—you’re going to sound worse than you mean to. After the second email it is time to pick up the phone. Oh and do you really think your boss wants to be included in this useless electronic debate? Answer: No!

Also, edit yourself in email. Don’t take 15 minutes or four pages to explain that could be done in five minutes or two paragraphs. Your boss is not interested in your ability to wax poetic about issues, problems or even solutions. Emails are for data. Don’t write anything else in them.

9. Sitting on the sidelines
There is trouble a-brewing! Do you think the boss did not notice that all you did was keep your head down hoping the storm will pass? Doing nothing is not a strategy and will be the fastest way to get notice for the wrong reasons.

Another way to get noticed for the wrong reasons is stating you don’t have time or your plate is too full. This is passive-aggressive behavior and this is not a critical success factor. Not getting into the mix of things, makes you seem disorganized or not a team player. Step up to the plate; sit down with the boss and prioritize activities to determine together if you can take on more responsibilities.

10. Work or Play
A break in everyday communication will make the boss wonder. Are you really working hard? In the current workplace, it is not uncommon to have virtual offices or to have “work from home” arrangements. Stay in contact throughout the day with the boss. Be available for conference calls. Share your calendar. Find ways to keep in touch. But not too much!

Boss and employee relations are not always easy to navigate. The lines between being on the up-and-up and being a kiss up can be fine, as can the lines between go-getter and get going. However, management at every level is in a position to take leadership and foster changes it wants in an organization. Leading by example is a highly effective method for engaging and inspiring other to follow suit, creating a loyal and more productive workforce throughout any organization.

About the Author(s)

Mary Hladio is CEO of Ember Carriers Inc.