There’s no better way to expose hypocrisy than being subjected to the scrutiny of a toddler.
Ever get caught eating crap or outed for gossiping by one of your littles? Yep. They have an unwelcome (but later appreciated) way of holding up a mirror to our bad behavior and allowing us to see our not-so-nice side. That’s what makes parenting and leading so exhausting. It’s hard to be good all the time.
Mothers, like leaders, tend to be the true north for the group. The values we convey, and how we behave are always under constant scrutiny. We’re held to a higher standard. We’re not allowed to have bad days without judgment. And as we go, so goes the group. Ever notice that your energy level at home or in the office is the determinant of how the rest of the group behaves? You feel like having a lie-in? Notice nobody else picks up the slack. Your comings and goings at the office are equally assessed. That’s why how you act is more important than whatever you’re saying.
I once had a boss that made clear his distaste of people who clocked out at five o’clock. When he was out of the office, he would randomly call people after five to see if they were at their desks. This same individual was rarely in his office after hours, however, and took so many days off that it became a standing practice to wryly comment on his “well-deserved vacations.” This obvious hypocrisy bred resentment with the group and did little to bond us as a team. There was a great deal of talent churn which led to inefficiencies and desperate re-hires that rarely panned out. The cycle continued to the point that the group eventually disbanded and was absorbed into the larger organization. An extreme example, perhaps, but illustrative of the damage that stated versus actual behavior can have on a team.
Remember the telephone game from childhood? Messages get messed up when they’re translated by other people. Your actual and stated behaviors must be consistent or they are subject to misinterpretation. And if they don’t line up, eventually you become a false prophet. And know that even when you’re not trying, you’re communicating something.
In a professional development class I took through Harvard Business School, I remember Thomas DeLong, Professor of Management Practice, said,
“Any ambiguous behavior will be interpreted as negative.”
So behave with conviction. Always.
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