How to Set a Better Example for Your Team

By Timothy Carter, writer
Apr 07, 2017

There are a handful of strategies you can use to be a better leader for your team

As the leader of your organization, or at least a subset of employees, you’re going to set an example whether you mean to or not. Your workers will be watching your habits, your choices and even your disposition closely, and even though they may not consciously realize it, they’ll begin to adopt those characteristics in their own work.

Obviously, you want to give your workers the best standard possible, but it’s hard to change your own habits. Fortunately, there are a handful of strategies you can use to be a better leader for your team—and help your workers become more productive and positive at the same time.

Respect everyone

First and foremost, you need to respect everyone—and notice that I didn’t say “respect your employees.” By “everyone,” I literally mean everyone, from your teammates and peers to your superiors, to your vendors and even the catering delivery guy. This should go without saying, but it’s good to remain cognizant of your actions. No matter what circumstances you’re facing or who you’re dealing with, respect should be your first priority; speak cordially and politely, and consider every person’s thoughts and feelings. Do this and your employees will follow suit, and they’ll have fewer disputes, both internally and externally.

Follow your own rules

As the leader, you’re going to be making lots of rules, from what time your employees need to get to the office to how emails should be sent and presented. One of the worst things you can do as a leader is make a rule and then break it; such an infraction will demonstrate that either your rules aren’t that important or you view yourself as above the team. Either way, you’ll lose respect, and your workers will be less likely to follow your rules in the future. Do your best to practice what you preach if you want your team to follow your instructions and guidance.

Remain calm

It’s not always going to be easy, but you need to remain as calm as possible no matter what circumstances you’re facing. If you end up exploding in a fit of rage, or breaking down in self-defeat, your workers will have an amplified view of the situation, and they’ll be more likely to lose their cool when they face challenges in their own roles. Remain cool no matter what’s going on around you, and they’ll do a better job of remaining similarly level-headed.

Communicate openly

This is an important standard to set for a number of reasons. First, openly expressing what you think will help your employees to trust you implicitly, making them feel like a more integrated part of the team. Second, you’ll be setting a standard for open communication; if you give your honest opinion whenever it’s asked, they’ll feel more comfortable giving their honest opinions when you ask them. I feel that open lines of communication has been an important piece of success at OutrankLabs since we are a remote workforce. To have the freedom to share ideas and concerns without hesitation makes our team proactive in sharing their thoughts. This kind of open environment will give you more valuable feedback and help you establish stronger bonds of trust throughout the team.

Listen to others

This is an extension of the “communicate openly” strategy, forcing you to listen to other people when they’re speaking. This goes for any environment, whether you’re having a one-on-one brainstorming session or you’re hosting a group meeting. Remain silent when people are speaking their minds, and give them the attention they deserve. This will lead to an environment of constructive, attentive listening, and will make your employees feel more “heard” in the context of your workplace.

Get on the floor

Getting “on the floor” is a colloquial term for doing the same work your employees are doing, or at least being in the same environment as they are. When you spend too much time as a leader in a silo, or closed off in your office from the rest of the group, you’ll give your team the impression that you’re not on the same playing field. This can cultivate distrust among your team, and may lead to resentment over time. By stepping out and helping your employees with their responsibilities, engaging as part of the group, you’ll create a more mutual atmosphere for collaboration and trust.

Remain transparent and visible

Though you won’t be able to share every tidbit of information you have with your employees, you should actively work to remain as transparent and visible as possible. Don’t just bark orders at your employees; explain the motivation behind your decisions. If something big is in the pipeline, let them know. Show them what work you’re doing and how you’re progressing with your own responsibilities; doing so will breed more trust, and encourage your employees to be more transparent with their own work.

If you can adopt these qualities in your own work, you’ll start to notice your team adopting them for themselves—without any direct intervention on your part. To make it even better, once your workers start adopting these habits, they’ll be able to self-reinforce; they’ll be encouraged to maintain them by the simple fact that other people are doing it. This is why corporate culture is so important—but it all starts with the examples you set as the leader.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Pressmaster

Timothy Carter is the Director of Business Development for the Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency AudienceBloom. When Timothy isn't telling the world about the great work his company does, he's planning his next trip to Hawaii while drinking some Kona coffee.
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