I Learned it from Watching You!

by | Education, Leadership, Management, Motivation, Performance, Personal


Do you remember that old anti-drug commercial about parents using drugs and their children following them?  TV Dad would walk into Son’s bedroom with some drug paraphernalia and say to Son, “Where did you get this?”  Son would claim innocence but Dad was having none of it and would press, “Where did you get this? Who taught you how to use this?” and finally Son would have had enough and would shout, “You, all right?  I learned it from watching you.”  We’d all let that sink in and then the narrator would wisely proclaim, “Parents who use drugs have kids who use drugs.”

At that age, I was in no danger of falling to the dark side, but I did learn something. I learned about hypocrisy.  For months afterward, conversations in my house could be heard going something like this,

Mom: “ Your room is a mess.”
Me: “I learned it from watching you.”
Dad: “You’re a couch potato.”
Me: “I learned it from watching you.”
Mom: “You left the cap off the toothpaste.”
Me: “I learned it from watching you.”

Yeah, so I was that smart-mouthed little darling. Go ahead, it’s ok to feel sorry for my parents.  I’ve apologized to them, and I’ve learned that they were flawed and human, too.  Years later, I was new in my leadership and a colleague was having trouble getting his management team to work with him.  Trying to help, I asked if he wanted me to take care of it for him and he replied, “Oh thanks, I’ll let you know if I need the nuclear option.”  The nuclear option?  I realized then that I had a reputation of “going nuclear” on others to get what I wanted.  I was what happened when you press the red button!  By watching me, my colleague (and I’m sure others) learned what the nuclear option looked like.  What’s that old saying, ‘you’re either a good example or a horrible warning’?  Turns out, the example I was setting was a horrible warning, and certainly not who I wanted to be in the world.

Since then, I have really endeavored to set a good example in most areas of my life and leadership. It’s an ongoing process.  I, too, am flawed and human and I don’t get it right every time.  Focusing on what I expected of others, I have to set those expectations for myself first because they’re learning from watching me.  Can you relate to that? Have you ever walked into your center and found a team member texting in front of guests’ eyes? Is there a chance they learned that from watching you?  Ha!  Don’t go nuclear on me, now… I have no doubt that you have perfectly legitimate reasons for being on your phone, a very important email from a vendor, your bank, another guest, came in.  I understand. And, you’re the boss, right?  Sure, and people are watching.  It helps me to understand others’ behavior sometimes by asking myself how I might have impacted it. I find that it helps me get back to who I want to be in the world, and working in harmony with others is a great side-benefit.

I’ll leave you with a few examples that I try to ask myself:

  • Want your team to smile more? Do you smile at everyone you see?
  • Do you want the team to be on time?  Do you start and end meetings on time?
  • Do you want someone’s undivided attention? Are you willing to give it to them?
  • Do you want _______________? Are you serving as a good example, or a horrible warning?

I share this with you not because I have all the answers, because I don’t.  I share it because this is a leadership area that I want to improve in. What about you?

We will be hosting our Performance Leadership Webinar on Thursday, April 1st. Register here. This session promises to inspire “right now” moves you can make to “level up” the performance of your team.

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