Are you leading by example?

Think hard about that question, are you leading by example? There is a thin line between walking the talk and walking the walk once you are in a supervisory position. Sometimes for new supervisors the position can go to their heads to the point that they manage themselves right out of a job. Now there are many schools of thought on this and they can all be right or wrong depending on the circumstances of the particular situation. In general however, you should be trying to lead by example and walking the walk.  Now when I say the walk I am not talking about doing the job of your team, but doing your own job. Your job is managing your team, helping them solve performance problems, operational problems, and supporting them through training and advice. Where I see many supervisors missing the boat is in the support area. Think about it, when there is a performance issue your on top of it, when there is a problem with equipment your on it and have it fixed. What about support issues? What is happening when things are going good? How are you addressing training issues and supporting your team? Most supervisors wait until there is a problem and then start looking for training to fix the problem. At that point it is too late; you are working in emergency mode trying to put out the fires. When you should be looking for training is when things are going good and you want to improve your team. Doing it the other way is like showing up to the fire, and then having to search for a water source, by the time you find it you’re house is already burned down.  By focusing on improvement you are looking for a water source at the fire station before the fire alarm goes off. Think about that scenario and now think about your team, where do you need to improve?

It may be that your team is running along fine, so it may be an issue of cross training people to make sure positions are covered should there be an illness. By cross training a person they can let go of some old habits, learns some new skills, and it makes your business more flexible should there be problems down the road. You may even find a diamond in the rough that better suits a position that you had not thought about. Entrepreneurs and quality team leaders are always looking for ways to make an operation better and not everything needs to cost an arm and a leg.

If you’re not sure of the interests of the people of your team then it’s time to have some interviews to review performance, goals, etc. To me training should be goal oriented. If you’re waiting for a problem to happen before you start training them something is wrong. Think preventative, there is a reason police and fireman are trained before they start work and not after. So how do you lead by example in this area, look to improve team performance before problems start? Suggest ways to improve the team and ask for input from the team members when no problems are apparent and you will find everyone will be more focused therefore making your business more efficient, focused, and profitable.

About the Author

Bruce Outridge is a leadership and business consultant specializing in the transportation industry. You can view information, programs, and services on his website at

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