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Lead by Example

8 October, 2015 - 15:24

If you are able to manage and interact with different cultures more easily than your staff or employees are, model the way for them to understand how they could improve their own self-efficacies. Through your behaviors, your beliefs, and your thinking, you demonstrate, by example, the skills and knowledge they n eed to manage cultural environments. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, 1 in The Leadership Challenge, found that leaders should establish principles that guide people to reach their goals. Because a small shift or change could be overwhelming for some, helping them to set short, interim goals can help them to achieve larger goals. Modeling the way by identifying the barriers, being resourceful, and creating opportunities for your own success helps others to see their own abilities succeed. Take, for example, the case of Jaime and Anne:

Jaime is in her late 20s. She serves as the director of a civic engagement program in a nonprofit organization. Anne is in her late 50s and manages the program, reporting directly to Jaime. They’ve worked together for the past three years fairly well. They have their disagreements but overall have a healthy working relationship.

In the last year, the board of directors has changed the nature of the program to incorporate civic engagement and service learning principles. As a result, an increasing amount of volunteers in the program are college and high school students. Jamie notices that Anne has difficulty working with a younger generation of volunteers. She doesn’t respond to them the way she responds to volunteers who are in her age group. Sometimes, Anne will make side comments about the younger generations’ work ethics saying, “They’re so unreliable” and “I don’t know why they don’t just pick up the phone to talk to me. It’s like they don’t know how to leave a message on voicemail anymore.” She’s even said these comments to her 55+ volunteers, who readily agree about the generational differences.

Jaime knows that Anne needs to be able to work with volunteers of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

She’s seen the negative impacts of Anne’s behavior. Many of the younger volunteers come to Jamie if they have problems or issues when they should be going to Anne who directly manages them. They’ve expressed that Jaime is “more like them” and understands them. Although Jamie doesn’t mind helping the volunteers with their questions, it’s taking her away from her role and responsibilities as a leader of the department. Additionally, it’s setting a tone for how Anne works and reshaping her job duties.

To resolve this, Jaime speaks with Anne about the issue. Anne doesn’t see a problem with how she’s handling the situation with younger volunteers. Jaime disagrees and at the end of the meeting, both agree to a plan that helps Anne to work more effectively with volunteers of any cultural background. Jamie and Anne work together to set goals that are achievable and work toward the long-term goals of the organization. Jaime finds opportunities to compliment Anne when she is successful and helps Anne to identify strategies that help her do her work more efficiently.

Jaime continues to work with Anne in the months to come. She’s patient and believes that Anne will be able to adapt; however, after two years, Jaime decides to let Anne go because the situation does not change.

It is important to recognize that there are times that no matter how much you try to model the way for employees and others, it does not work out to the benefit of the organization. In the example of Jamie and Anne, after 2 years of Jaime modeling the way and helping Anne, the progress was not significant enough to make the change that was needed. There was still resistance on Anne’s part. After much reflection and evaluation, Jaime decided to let Anne go. The cost of low self-efficacy affects not only Anne but also the program and the organization’s overall goals.