– Clarence Budington Kelland, American Writer & Author
Happy belated Father’s Day to all the dads out there in the world. I hope everyone was able to enjoy some aspect of the day, regardless of your personal situation, age, experience or perspective. I recognize that for some, this may not be a happy day, or a day filled with fond memories of days gone by.
Becky and I feel fortunate in so many ways. We were both raised by great parents and we were privileged to raise two great children, now young adults with lives of their own. We were also able to enjoy almost every phase of parenting. Yes, there were certainly moments in each phase that were challenging, but overall, we have been so very fortunate, I prefer the word blessed!
The early childhood phase was absolutely fascinating to me. It didn’t take long to see our children emulating almost everything we did; our mannerisms, the way we treated & responded to each other, even the way we posed for pictures (see inset photo of me, our son, Connor and Becky’s dad; note hands in pockets). Almost everything. They watch, they record, they learn and emulate!
It is almost scary when you realize your children are hearing, watching and absorbing almost everything you do and say. When you hear your tone, words and phrases coming out of the mouth of a “mini-you,” you realize you are always “on stage”. Parents are always teaching, even when not intending to teach. Young children are always students of their parent’s actions, behaviors, attitudes, responses to life. They are students when we’re at our best and unfortunately, also when we’re at our worst. Ouch!
And, so it is with being in a leadership position. Leaders are always “on stage”, even in seemingly private situations. People are always paying attention to what their leaders do and say, to what their leaders’ value and how they behave when they think no one is watching. All of this shows up in ways both significant and insignificant.
I remember reporting to a new senior executive after a large merger involving significant layoffs. Our former leader was in his office by 6:30 am every day. Almost everyone on the team was in the office by 7:00 am. The new executive didn’t start her day until after 8:00 am most days but worked until late evening almost every night, including weekends. Within a matter of weeks, almost everyone started and ended their day much later than before. There were no policy changes, no directives or mandates about starting and ending times were ever given. People were simply emulating the new leadership norms and practices.
Just like children are watching for clues and cues about their parent’s love for them as children; the people we lead are looking for incongruences between what we say we value, and what we’re perceived to value by our actions and behaviors. People want to know how they fit, and how important they are to the leader and if they matter. Their asking themselves if they trust their leader to do the right thing, even when no one is looking?
What do leaders and dads (moms too) have in common? Both are always on stage. Children and people are almost always watching, listening and learning. We are always teaching, even when we don’t intend to be teaching. Our children, and people we lead, are always watching, listening, learning and emulating.
What behaviors are you teaching this week? Maybe it is time we are all a bit more intentional about what we say, how we say it and what we do. Our behavior matters more than most of us realize.
- “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
— Jim Valvano
- “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” – Edgar Guest (full poem below)
As always, how will you lead differently, or better, this coming week?
Have a great week!
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Sermons We See
by Edgar Guest
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advise you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind
Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.
And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way.
One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.
Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language which to every one is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say,
I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.