People Do What People See
Our values are displayed in what we do.
Ever since I can remember I have loved music. I love listening to music, and I love playing music, and some of my most treasured memories are found within a musical setting. Some of my earliest memories are of listening to my mum practising her violin after we were all in bed for the night, and wanting to learn how to play for myself.
Soon after that I started having lessons and before long I was playing regularly in my local orchestra, and you can imagine the fun I had at school when I was late to a rugby practice because I had been at a rehearsal. However, for those that know that game being a “tight head” prop forward (also known as a front row or lock forward) meant that I didn’t get too many of my mates saying anything to me directly.
Anyway, one of the key things to learn when playing violin in an orchestra is perhaps even more important than the accuracy of the actual notes that you play. It is getting the bowing right. What this means is that every member of the violin section needs to have their bow going in the same direction at the same time. Every musician in the violin section needs to follow the bowing patterns selected by the leader. Not too tricky a task you may think when there only actually two directions to choose from!
Now, the benefits of consistent bowing are both musical and visual; somehow it looks so much more professional when all of the bows are going in the same direction at the same time, even though you might be drawn to think that playing the right notes was a much more important achievement. However, what is true in the violin section is also true in life – it’s not always the most important things that appear to be the most important!
A similar principle holds true in business leadership, where although doing the right thing is, of course, important, for leaders, modelling the right thing for others to follow is imperative. Every business leader will usually have a vision, a mission, or a goal that they are seeking to achieve, and nothing undermines such a quest as a bad example or even an example with good intentions that is perceived however incorrectly as a bad example.
“Nothing is more confusing than people who give good advice but set a bad example.”
~ Norman Vincent Peale
When I was a teenager I used to play in a large youth orchestra and we would rehearse for 3 hours every Saturday, with several concerts every year at some of the most prestigious venues in our city. When I joined I was positioned at the very back of the “second violins”, the lowliest position available, and I can still remember my first rehearsal. We had the first run through of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and it felt to me as if I was listening to a professional recording; as a 15-year old, I was totally amazed by the quality of the sound that they could produce and I hoped one day to be able to contribute fully.
Over the years as my playing improved I progressed forwards in rank, as you do in such organisations, and the best position I reached was halfway back in the first violin section. I was really well pleased with that achievement, only to discover when I left that if only my bowing had been more accurate I would have been several desks further forward! It seems that I wasn’t so diligent in following the correct bowing and any further forward and I would have put others off too, and I rather suspect that my mum would probably put that down to a rebellious streak.
When people that you lead see your actions, they may have heard what you say but won’t necessarily know your intentions, and most of them actually won’t care. Many of them will be following the advice of Edgar Allen Poe to “Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.” and the wisdom to “Characterise people by their actions and you’ll never be fooled by their words”. They will see your behaviour, and that will inform their understanding of your values.
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”
~ Stephen Covey
If we want to see particular values displayed in our teams then we have to be absolutely sure that we model the right behaviour, and the question we all need to ask ourselves daily is “what am I saying by what I do” and to make sure that in our actions we lead by example.
About Roger Fairhead
Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.
Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.