Are You A Good Model?

One of the most powerful teaching tools is modeling. One of the least effective is lecturing. If I really want to influence another’s values I can’t lecture, I have to live them. If I value promptness, then I must be on time. If I value hard work, I must work hard. If I value democracy, I must be democratic. Espousing a value and not practicing it is easily seen for the sham it is.

People tend to adopt the behaviors of those they admire and respect, not those who say do as I say, not as I do. Kids watch their parents, workers watch their bosses, friends copy each other’s positive acts, and through the years spousal values tend to become more and more alike.

model behavior communication leadershipHowever, even the best modeling doesn’t guarantee that new values will be adopted. Values change as the times change. Maybe a better way of saying that is that over time, values are assigned different priorities. For example, 50 years ago people who went to work in most businesses intended to stay at their selected companies until they retired. Loyalty was highly valued by both labor and management. Today, people may change occupations five or six times and companies fire or lay off hundreds, even thousands of employees in the name of increased profitability. Flexibility is valued over loyalty and the world goes right on.

People today have to reexamine their values. What are they? Where did they come from? Are they appropriate in today’s rapidly changing world? I read an article the other day about the most frequent cause for dismissal (firing) of mid level managers in the United States. Want to guess what it is? Inability to change with the times. The dismissed managers operated with a value system that demanded obedience and compliance, “my way or the highway”, in systems that have become less and less autocratic, more and more democratic. Being stuck in an obsolete value system can damage your self-esteem, your relationships, and your very livelihood. You may need to change and that generally takes courage.

If you look for the meaning of courage in the dictionary you’ll find two quite different definitions. The first has to do with bravery in the face of danger. The second is doing the right thing in all circumstances. Life sometimes requires bravery but almost always requires right action. Sometimes people will say, “Well, what is right action? How do I know what’s correct?”

And the answer is that you don’t always. But unless you are a sociopath you have a conscience, a still, small voice that talks to you all the time. It’s the one that, right now, may be saying “what small voice?” That one. That voice. Pay attention. Listen. Your conscience knows right actions.


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