Portions of this post appear in the book Business is ART. The post in its entirety previously appeared at the former Business is ART Blog site on November 4, 2014. I was recently reminded of it from a post by fellow consultant and blogger Matt Monge (@MattMonge) of The MojoCompany and thought it bears repeating.
As a leader, you are on display at all times. How you behave sets the tone for your business or organization. This goes for general behavior as well as momentary behavior.
Always be cognizant of how others are reading you; because they are. Every second of every workday, your employees (and clients) are reading you.
One morning, after having had a significant disagreement with someone in my personal life, I let that disagreement influence my workplace behavior.
When I got to the office, instead of the usual, “Good morning. How are you?” type of greeting to which people had become accustomed from me, I entered the break room with a scowl on my face. I didn’t look at or engage with anyone. I simply poured a cup of coffee and hurried back to my desk.
Later, one of the most trusted members of my leadership team, and someone I am proud to still call a friend, knocked on my door and suggested that we needed to talk in private.
He closed the door and asked in a very concerned tone, “Are we going to announce layoffs?”
The question stunned me. We were growing. We were profitable. I didn’t know where this was coming from.
“There’s a rumor going around.”
“How did THAT get started?”
“Some employees were in the break room this morning and said you wouldn’t even look them in the eyes, so, they started speculating on what was wrong. Then they concluded you couldn’t look them in the eyes because you are going to lay some of them off.”
I started the rumor. I did. Not knowingly or intentionally, but, because I was not paying attention, it led employees to speculate as to what was causing my “unnatural” behavior, and they “naturally” concluded I was about to chop some heads…probably starting with anyone lounging about the break room!
The good news was, we dramatically cut back on the cost of coffee that day. The bad news was, we lost a lot of productivity due to gossip and worry. Worse, I lost at least some degree of the faith and trust of some of my employees.
That is a very, very hard thing to win back. Who knows how long after I tried to assure everyone that cuts were not on the horizon had they assumed I was not being honest with them?
It was probably a long time.