RSS Leading by Example

Like most leaders and managers, I occasionally lie awake at night thinking about work-related issues or problems that need addressed or, having already addressed the problem, I have yet to see tangible outcomes from my decision.

I’m not so sure these contemplative episodes are healthy or beneficial, but when I finally fall asleep, I have usually found peace in reconciling my personal motivations with my professional agenda.

When I reflect back on the many jobs I’ve held over the years – from warehouse and retail work to wood products and, ultimately, banking, I recall many sleepless nights when I attempted to reconcile aspects of the business I had no control over. These included, among other things, the motives of my supervisors to act or lead in a certain way; the individual motivation (or lack thereof) of my fellow employees; and the financial opportunity costs that result when employees aren’t fully engaged in their work.

When I was 18 years old, I worked in the order-editing department for Champion Products, a sports apparel company where my father managed the division. (Yes, I fully acknowledge the nepotism but hey, that’s how it works sometimes.) Anyway, by the time I was eighteen, I had worked for Champion for the previous three summers: the first summer in the shipping department; the second summer in the outlet store; and the third summer in the warehouse.

My fourth summer at Champion was much more interesting for two reasons: I finally had the chance to work in the front office and, more importantly, I had the opportunity to view my father as a leader, not just as my dad. The tasks I performed that summer were routine office duties; I worked with a small group of people and the stress – at least from my worldly perspective - was high.

Not only did I have to dress more professionally in the office setting, my father had placed what I felt were higher performance expectations on me than other members of the team. Such as expecting me to be the last person to leave for – and the first person to return from – break.

By the end of the first week, what with me staying seated to finish an order when the break bell sounded, then immediately getting up, and returning to my desk when the second bell sounded, other employees were following my example. Dad never expressly shared with me that he was having a productivity problem. He simply shared with me his expectations of my own individual performance, which upon reflection, helped him improve his organization in a small way.

As I look back on that particular summer, I realize now that an important lesson I learned was not simply the tasks of the job, but the importance of aligning professional goals with personal motivations. My father, as the manager, felt confident enough in me to expect a different level of performance, and he used me to help him create a new performance expectation with the other employees.

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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