Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Loud Actions

My wife has a saying in her life coaching business, about how life works so much better when what you say and what you do are in harmony with who you are.

Harvey talks about this too:

Harvey Mackay's Column This Week

Good examples speak louder than good advice

Do as I say, not as I do.

How many times have we heard—or practiced—that bit of advice?

If you ask me, that's the cowardly way out. We lead by example, whether in business, family or friendships. So why would we expect anyone to do as we say, not as we do, if the two are in conflict with one another?

I just returned from Shanghai, China, where I spoke to 1,500 Chinese entrepreneurs and business people. While over there I heard the Chinese proverb, "Reserve the square-inch plot for your descendants to till." I didn't understand the meaning, but the explanation was intriguing: The "square-inch plot" is the heart, and the meaning is that parents must leave a good example to be followed by their children.

This brought back memories from my childhood and probably yours too. Do you remember the saying, "Monkey see, monkey do"? That's how most kids learn. And kids, of course, grow up to be adults, who usually continue to follow examples set for them.

Famous child psychiatrist Fritz Redl used to say to groups of parents: "Get out your paper and pencils. I am going to tell you the three most important things you will ever need to know about raising children—example, example and example."

It doesn't matter if you're raising children or managing people, setting a good example is one of the most important leadership skills. You have to practice what you preach. Where we go and what we do advertises what we are.

Marshall Field, who founded the famous retail chain, always told employees there were 12 things to remember: "The value of time, the success of perseverance, the pleasure of working, the dignity of simplicity, the worth of character, the power of kindness, the influence of example, the obligation of duty, the wisdom of economy, the virtue of patience, the improvement of talent and the joy of originating."

"The influence of example" is extremely important in business and life.

Actor Martin Sheen told this story: "One day a young mother brought her young child to the famous Indian leader Gandhi and said, 'Please, Gandhi, you must tell my son to stop eating sweets.'

"Gandhi thought for a moment, then replied, 'Well, all right, can you come back in two days?'

"The mother agreed and came back with her child in exactly two days. Gandhi took the child aside and said, 'Don't eat sweets.'

"'Is that all?' said the puzzled mother, and Gandhi said, 'Yes.'

"'But why couldn't you have said that two days ago?' asked the mother.

"'Because,' replied Gandhi, 'two days ago I was still eating sweets.'"

You see, Gandhi practiced what he preached.

The Think & Grow Rich Newsletter shared the story of how the Federal Express field organization was having difficulty improving the accuracy of airbill documents, which are used to prepare invoices. Accuracy was vital but the error rate hovered around 10 percent no matter how much pressure was exerted on managers.

A senior vice-president called in one of his managing directors and told him: "The airbill error rate is really killing us. Would you please take a couple of your stations and ask the employees there to figure out a way to improve the accuracy to at least 99.5 percent? When they succeed, I'd like to use their approach as the model for our entire worldwide system."

About six weeks later, the director called and said, "We did even better than you expected. There were only 51 errors all month out of the 21,000 airbills submitted."

You can guess how the story ends. The entire company followed the example set for them, and the error rate for the whole Federal Express system soon improved from 10 percent to .5 percent.

Set a good example, and you can leave a lasting mark. Consider the duck. A duck is perhaps two feet long. Watch it move through water on a lake, and while you may not be able to see it paddling furiously below the surface, the wake the duck leaves behind fans out about 40 degrees, and the ripples follow for 50 feet or so. That duck leaves a wake nearly 600 times its size!

Now consider your actions. Will your example have the same effect?

Mackay's Moral: The best teacher in the world is example.

Miss a column? The last three weeks of Harvey's columns are always archived online.

More information and learning tools can be found online at harveymackay.com.

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