Actions Speak Louder than Words – Fix Your Own First

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do” is a common refrain from a frustrated boss.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could say this and all your employees would do just this? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

If what you’re saying doesn’t match what you are doing, you’re busted.

The reason is all eyes are upon you all the time, and as the owner, you can’t hide. I understand that no one is perfect when it comes to everything they do as a leader, but the fact is your actions speak louder than your words.

Think of it this way: imagine your dad or mom are telling you as a young teenager that you have to quit smoking because it is dangerous to your health. The problem is they’re telling you this as the ashes are dropping off the cigarette dangling from their mouths.

You see it for what it is.

I didn’t like it when I was young and entering my family plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical business. I felt the standards I was held to were far stricter than what the other employees were subjected to who were also coming up the ranks with me.

It’s a bit of an exaggeration here (but not too much) when I say I could put the tiniest scratch on the fender of one of our trucks and I’d never hear the end of it from my dad, my uncle, my service manager, and anyone else who felt like it. All the while other employees could just about wrap it around a telephone pole and all they’d hear was, “Don’t do that again, please.”

I was expected to work faster, longer hours, to keep my truck neat and clean, and a whole lot more.

After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized I was following in the footsteps of my dad and my uncle who also had to set the standards by their actions, not just their words. They knew that everyone was watching and that they’d have to demonstrate what it means to go above and beyond.

Okay. It’s time for an honest self-assessment:

  1. Are you in early and willing to stay late?

Note: If you’re a clock watcher, they’re likely to be the same.

  1. Is your car, truck, or van neat and clean?

Note: If your vehicle is cluttered or a downright pig sty, you’ve given them unwritten permission to copy this lowly behavior.

  1. Is your desk tidy?

Note: I don’t want to hear about that stupid saying, “A messy desk is a sign of a brilliant mind”. No, it isn’t. What it is saying is… I’m a mess.

  1. Are you dressed to a standard that is at least one level higher than those who work around you?

Note: Dressing up is as much for you and your self-esteem as it is to set the bar for professionalism at your company and in front of your customers.

  1. Are your clothes and the way you maintain them demonstrating that you’re a professional?

Note: You may have a uniform standard, but if it looks like you slept in your clothes because it’s disheveled, then this is what will be copied.

  1. Do you invest in learning, not just in mastering the trade, but also in the technology so you’re keeping up on the ever-changing way in which we have to work?

Note: Demonstrate through your actions that everyone at your company (including you) is always getting better through never-ending training.

  1. Are you demonstrating to your team that you really care about them with things like known salary levels, opportunities to advance their careers, health care, pensions, and other benefits?

Note: It’s so easy to say you care about your team, but it’s only when you put your money where your mouth is that anyone believes it.

  1. Are you showing the team that you care for the Customer and doing what it takes in every way you interact with the customer?

Note: Do you do what it takes from the way you answer the phones to dispatching to running the calls to make sure the customer is the sole focus? It takes technology and training, but more than that… it takes an attitude that you share, which is – the customer really is King.

  1. Are you showing that it’s not just about the money, although important, but it’s about serving others like your customers, your staff, and the community you work and live in?

Note: Are you willing to do what it takes to get a stubborn problem fixed with money out of your own pocket? Is helping your community part of the culture at your company? If not, it’s easy to perceive you and the company are all about yourselves.

  1. Are you good at meetings and communicating with the team in a way that is fair so it’s not just when they mess up as much as it is about making a big deal when they do good?

Note: Do you have regular paid meetings that have tight agendas and that help the team be it’s best? If you do, you’re demonstrating the importance of good communication.

Wow! This is a lot to reflect upon… isn’t it?

The good news is you can wake up each day and get incrementally better at this. The trick is to prioritize what bad habits you must break and what good habits you must get in place.

It’s said that if you can demonstrate a good habit each day for 30 days, there’s a very strong chance it can take hold and stay in place.

The goal is to show your team what it means to be the best version of you.


Hey, there’s a labor shortage out there. Wouldn’t you like to show prospective new hires how good you and your team are? Make it a goal to become the Employer of Choice.

Surprisingly, owners and managers think people want to work at a place that has minimum standards. The answer is the opposite – it's true especially for the really great “A” and “B” players out there. They’re dismayed that the people they work for refuse to have standards and that the leaders behave poorly themselves or have a double standard.

(Having issue with family fighting at work? Check out my blog What to Do When Family is Fighting at Work.)

Al Levi teaches contractors how to run their businesses with less stress and more success with operating manuals. To get control of your business and grow the right way, get The 7-Power Contractor® Signature Operating Manuals System at today.

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