You are a role model to someone. The expression "tone at the top" is true. The example leaders demonstrate is often believed to be a requirement employees must follow. No matter what’s written in policy handbooks or said aloud, the traits leaders demonstrate others will implement as their own.
Even though most leaders recognize this to be true, it’s easy to forget how daily behavior is observed and actions are emulated. When we use the word ‘leader’ we are referring to everyone. It doesn’t matter your title, responsibilities or what’s printed on your business card. Everyone leads.
Consider this. Distractions cost US businesses $588 billion dollars in productivity each year, according to the Information Overload Group. It makes me wonder, how many of these distractions are derived from your leadership tone and daily work behavior.
Let’s determine the answer with a pop-quiz.
- Do you expect immediate responses to emails sent?
- Do you pop into an employee’s office, send a text or call them within 30 minutes without an answer?
- Phone Call:
- Do you always take phone calls regardless of what you are working on or who is in your office?
- Are you always seen carrying your cell phone?
- Have you interrupted meetings or allowed yourself to be distracted in order to respond to messages or alerts?
- Does your phone stay on and active throughout each workday?
- Unannounced Visits:
- Are you known for walking into an employee’s workspace unscheduled to discuss a project, question or need?
- Open Door Policy:
- Are you devoted to an open door policy permitting others to interrupt your activities throughout the day?
- Do you allow for an open schedule of time that anyone can take to meet their needs?
- Are you intentional about blocking off time throughout the day to work without interruption?
- Do you accept every meeting invite?
- Do you require an agenda before attending or does the invitation merely imply your required attendance?
- As other departments or peers make demands of your time or request non-priority essential tasks, do you take on their requests without scrutiny?
- After Hours:
- Are you known for sending or responding to after-hour emails or texts?
- Are you willing to interrupt your family time to take incoming work-related phone calls?
- Social Media:
- Do you pop on social media to respond to posts and comments throughout the day?
- Do you actively share and communicate with others online frequently?
- Have you been known to respond to messages while taking time off from work?
- Do you regularly take time off to decompress, relax and refocus?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions (and I admit, I definitely did!), you are sending a message to your employees the same is expected of them. If you are unable to allow yourself time to focus without interruption, or if you are not proactively seeking ways to avoid disruption, others will fail to do so as well.
As the leader, you are the Attention Ambassador of your office. Lead by example. When you silence your phone, others will too. If you refrain from sending or responding to after-hours messages, others will feel permitted to do the same.
It’s up to YOU as the leader to prioritize your time and demonstrate that your team can feel empowered to do the same. As a result, employee productivity will soar, engagement will skyrocket and so will the profits that follow suit. When employees feel free to say “no” to other’s request for their time and attention, they can say “yes” to what matter most.
Choose to lead by example. Be the role model. Be a true leader. Be aware of the example you set. Change the expectations and remember - attention pays.
Neen James is the author of nine books including Folding TimeTM and her most recent, Attention PaysTM. Neen James was named one of the Top 30 Leadership Speakers by Global Guru several years in a row for her work with companies like Viacom, Comcast, Cisco, Virgin, Pfizer, BMW, and the FBI, among others.
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