Imagine the following scenarios:

  1. A young man walks into your office, visibly a little nervous. You look up from your computer and ask how you can help him. He informs you that he was recently hired by one of your vendors and is here to collect their usual information, but he is not exactly sure where to go. You explain, in detail, how to get to the correct location and how to obtain the information once he is there. He looks a bit confused so you draw out a quick map and jot your phone number in the corner. “Call if you have any questions!” you say with a smile as he thanks you for the map and hesitantly walks out your door. About ten minutes later your phone rings- he is at the location, thanks to your map, but cannot find the computer you mentioned. Via the phone, you walk him through it and he finally is able to get what he needs. After thanking you and profusely apologizing for interrupting your day, he hangs up.
  2. A young man walks into your office.  You look up from your computer and ask how you can help him. He informs you that he was recently hired by one of your vendors and is here to collect their usual information. You welcome him and tell him you are happy to give him directions to the location but he smiles, thanks you and says, “Actually, my boss is waiting in the car. Since this is my first time coming out here he wanted to make sure he walked me through the process so I was comfortable doing it by myself in the future. I just wanted to pop in and introduce myself!” You shake his hand, tell him you are glad to have him on board, hand him a business card, and watch him excitedly walk out of your office.

These two examples, pulled from a coworkers experience with two different vendors, truly showcase how valuable it is to utilize The Leadership Challenge’s first of their Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, Model the Way. Kouzes and Posner state, “Your value as a leader is determined not only by your guiding beliefs but also by your ability to act on them.” You can articulate your needs, expectations, and values, but your actions need to show that “exemplary leaders go first.”

They go on to state that “you set the example by spending time with someone, by working side by side with colleagues, by telling stories that make the [company’s] values come alive […].” When you look at the two options above, I see a leader who didn’t recognize the need for high direction and support (example one) and a leader who decided to take a few minutes out of his or her day to prove how important the work of their associates is (example two). Whether they value commitment, efficiency, customer service, or all three, that second leader was willing to showcase these values with actions.

Now, neither of these examples are necessarily bad. There can be a huge value in giving an associate the space and ability to try something on his or her own. But, when we think about how this translates to employee engagement and with the knowledge that 88% of people who leave a job are actually leaving their boss (The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham), example one, above, is fostering a young associate who does not feel confident in the work he is doing and must autonomously discover what is right. The young man in example two will be able to walk into the same situation in the future having a positive interaction with the people there and have a strong knowledge of exactly what he is to do. He will be both confident and competent. He has now had experiences with his manager that will help them communicate stronger moving forward (yes, I am generalizing). He now knows that his manager finds value in his role- enough to actually do it with him!

And in the end, whom do we want working for us? Someone who isn’t sure if they are doing the task correctly, and not sure who they can turn to for help? Or someone who feels empowered and appreciated?

So I challenge you to reconsider the amount of energy you put into associates when they take on a new challenge. Will the time you invest upfront help them feel confident and competent? Will it give them insight into what you and your company value? Will it help them learn how they should lead? If so, that time is totally worth it.


Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

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