Having recently written about the impact of “hypocrisy” on the credibility of leaders and their businesses, I had a real example of it this morning. Conscious that I’m a creature of habit, I made myself go to a different cafe to work this morning. The cafe I chose has a “Quiet Zone” where mobile phones and laptops are politely “banned”. This is a shame because this is just the place I’d choose to work. Also being reasonably compliant, I took the “warning” sign at face value and found myself somewhere else to sit.
Having made myself comply, you can imagine my and annoyance when a group of 6 men walked passed me into the Quiet Zone, found themselves a table and set up for a meeting (laptops and mobiles at the ready). I mentioned this to a passing member of staff, who said; “Oh, they’re our Directors.”. So, I immediately thought, it’s okay for them to use this Quiet Zone but not me!
I come from a non-conformist family and so was raised to think that I’m not better than anyone else and absolutely no-one is better than me. This means that I scan for any signs of; “we’re all equal, but some are more equal than others”, make very negative meanings if I find them and then do things like write this post and commit not to use this venue again.
On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that those Directors are completely oblivious of me and the consequences of their behaviour. So, here’s the leadership lesson for me – it’s not what you think about your actions and how you would justify them, it’s what the people around you make of them that makes you someone people will follow or someone people begin to distrust.
Of course, we all make mistakes and, if you’re lucky and you’ve built the kind of relationships that mean people will give you feedback, those mistakes can be rectified and, by listening and responding, you can turn a potential problem into something positive and reinforce the relationship. If you don’t have that kind of relationship, who knows what people might do with their discontent?
I won’t name the business but, if you heading west toward Burford on the A40, fancy a cup of tea and are tempted to turn left before you get to the roundabout, keep going.