Photo: Adobestock

Do as I say, not as I do! Yep, I’m guilty of throwing that classic one-liner out to employees, probably because I heard it so often as a kid. It’s probably also because I typically take a nonconventional approach to much of what I do, an approach that’s dependent on my personality and experience, and that may not work for others.

As business owners and managers, we all have reasons for doing specific tasks our own way, while expecting employees to do it another prescribed way. If there is rational method to the madness, that’s fine. But when it comes to the fundamentals of how you run your business, how you treat people who work for you, and how you interact with customers, are you walking the same talk you expect of your employees?

Model behavior

It can be challenging, as a people manager, to always model the behavior you want your employees to exhibit. Especially if you’re used to doing things your own way. Tempting as it is to go rogue when you want the rest of your team to fall in line, teamwork always starts at the top. Expecting your staff to work better as a team isn’t realistic if you don’t guide and participate in the teamwork.

Get your hands dirty

Do you as an owner or manager feel responsible for all the details of your business operations? What I mean is, do you pick up trash when you see it — or even take out the trash — or do you call someone over to do it for you? When you see a dry plant, do you yell at your grower to stop what they are doing and water, or do you take a moment to water it yourself?

Sure, you are super busy, and you pay people to do specific jobs for you so that all the work can get done. And you might not always be in a situation where you can stop to pitch in. But everyone is always watching. In this industry if you don’t prove you can get your hands dirty now and then and perform tasks that your lowest-paid employees do for you, you aren’t going to inspire much trust or respect. Walking your talk also helps to organically train staff to take care of such tasks without being told or supervised.

Walk the talk

If you as an executive or general manager expect your salaried mid-managers, sales reps or growers (or any other staff) to work long hours, but you’re in and out at your leisure, you’ll breed contempt. If you demand courtesy to customers from your staff, but you’re regularly rude to them yourself, you’ll breed insecurity. If you aren’t consistent with your job expectations for employees, but always expect consistent results, you’ll spend a lot of time re-hiring.

Be trainable

When you hold company procedure or culture training meetings, do you as the owner or top management show up? Or do you skip the meeting because “you don’t need it”? I’d bet you money your employees might think otherwise. Your absence at such gatherings also sends a clear message about company priorities. If you expect employees to abide by new training methods and policies, be present and engage at the training sessions.

When I give talks on company culture and recruiting, one of the most common comments I receive when I talk to attendees is “My boss (who is often the company owner) really needed to be here to hear this…” They know full well that unless the ears at the top are willing to listen, positive change will rarely follow. Just because you hold a management position, or are responsible for running daily operations, doesn’t mean you have full control over company culture. Company ownership typically dictates that dynamic — good or bad.

Just as you must set clear expectations for each employee regarding their job duties and goals, so must company owners when it comes to creating a viable company culture. If you don’t establish the core company values, then personally embody and model those values, it’s going to be tough to get everyone else to fall in line.