Your employees are watching

Actions speak louder than words for leaders in the workplace

One of the things I learned when I transitioned from a large company to a small business is how much more direct impact my actions had upon not only our employees, but also their families.

Good decisions were beneficial and bad decisions could be disastrous for them. This was nothing I had to think about when working for a large company. I came to learn that I was a steward for not only the ownership of the business and our customers, but also for our employees. This realization definitely changes your perception of your job and vision of the world.

With that understanding, it made me look very hard at the behaviors I exhibited at work. Were they different than my behaviors at home? We often hear the term “work-life balance” as careers are discussed. I argue that there really is not such a thing as work-life balance. In my mind, they bleed together. The lessons learned in your private life and your work life combine to shape how you behave. I doubt few mentally healthy managers and executives have two personalities, one at home and one at work. It is the same personality used on different stages. Their behaviors and thought processes are the same. If not, it becomes confusing to your loved ones and your subordinates. It is too hard to consistently separate the two.

Many people leading businesses were blessed with the gift of being smart. Whether that is instilled by heredity or a trait your parents developed in you, it is still a gift — it wasn’t much of a choice that you made. But because we have received this gift, we get the option of choices in how we behave in life. Are we happy or sad? Are we kind or mean?

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once said at a graduation address at his alma mater, Princeton University, that it is harder to be kind than smart. That being kind is a choice, but being smart is a gift. As leaders of organizations, our employees look to us for direction. The culture is set by our leadership example. We have a direct impact on how our employees behave as they usually behave in exactly the manner that they perceive as correct and they reach that perception based upon the actions of the leadership, no matter what policies state. If we choose to be kind, it opens communication. Employees are more relaxed and focused on their jobs and satisfaction climbs. Being kind is a powerful way to influence others and demonstrate wisdom, but it is a choice.

Henry James once wrote, “There are three things in human life that are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” It is true for life and business. And if you believe Jeff Bezos, it is a pathway to success.

Bill Hanlon, COO and executive vice president of Peoples Services, Inc., has spent nearly 40 years in the logistics sector and is involved with several industry trade associations. His goal is to provide a more professional and respected attitude about the logistics industry.