By Tony Ramy
When you accept a leadership position, the unwritten part of the contract is that you commit to never having a bad day. You are always on, and you must model the type of culture you want to build. The best leaders are humble, and they check their egos at the door. How you treat everyone around you, every minute of every day, is noticed. I was at a meeting not that long ago, and a person from a supporting department ran up to me with a big smile to say, “Thank you.” She had gone out of her way to help, and I had acknowledged her efforts. A few of my people were in the area, took note, and were curious about her level of appreciation. My response was simple: “Never underestimate the impact of any interaction.” As the Chinese proverb states, “The mightiest rivers are driven by the waters of even the tiniest streams.” This may seem easy, but the ability to model a respectful workplace where people passionately care about each other is a 24/7 job.
BRINGING CULTURE TO LIFE
If there is one thing that I have learned over the past quarter century, it is that people like to know where they stand. Allowing them to set goals that align with cultural and company success will increase their engagement and accountability. As a leader, you must take the time and energy to set high expectations while providing candid feedback on a regular and recurring basis. Doing this in a caring and empathetic way will demonstrate your commitment to them as individuals and is a key component of the culture that you and (more importantly) your team are trying to develop. When you see or hear of actions that have a positive impact, it is critical that you reward and recognize those actions. Your acknowledgment provides reinforcement and sets a standard for others to emulate.
ACTIONS OVER WORDS
As a second-line manager in my current role, I reaffirmed the regional culture at a recent national meeting. Big deal! Culture-building is not a top-down exercise. It grows organically on a foundation of trust that can only bloom over time and through one-on-one interactions. The culture you are trying to create is the sum of your employees’ experiences. Are you taking the time to know what is important to them? Do you say you have an open-door policy, but put up the “out to lunch” sign when challenges arise?
"People like to know where they stand. Allowing them to set goals that align with cultural and company success will increase their engagement and accountability."
At a meeting earlier in my career, a representative asked if we could grab a cup of coffee. We talked for 45 minutes about her career and set time for a follow-up. When she called, I shared an update on her requests from the prior meeting. Her response always has stuck with me: “I will never forget that you care enough to dedicate time to me.” She was well-regarded in her district and across the region. Her positive experience and attitude rippled through the region like a pebble in a pond. If you truly want to build a culture that puts people at the center, then how you act every minute of every day matters.
Leadership Lessons are intended to offer best practices on developing managers and leaders at all levels of an organization. If you have an idea for this column, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TONY RAMY has 25 years of U.S. and international leadership experience for Fortune 500 and startup organizations. He is currently a regional business director in the Obesity Division at Novo Nordisk.