"Do as I say" vs. "Do as I do"

Ryan Erickson

Being the guide your employees need can be hard sometimes — always. But, does “do as I say, not as I do,” really work? I think not.

Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

As a parent, I’ve oft been overheard telling my children the same thing I was told as a child: “Do as I say, not as I do.” I’m sure it was sparked from a simple question along the lines of why can’t I smoke, dad, you do?

Alas, years later, I’m thankful for being told no on that front. However, now that I’m an adult- most days- and in the workforce, I catch myself on occasion thinking that same ‘ole adage. But, of course, I dare not say it, as it has little meaning as a manager. 

How so? you may ask. Simple, insert another long-time saying: “Actions speak louder than words.” So whether you’re people-watching or interacting one-on-one with co-workers or senior staff, take a moment to think about how their actions- even their dress- are conveying a message. 

When I look around at my staff and those of other departments, I notice patterns of behavior that can all be traced back to my own actions or those of my fellow managers. It’s hard for me to admit that, too, that I may have failed my employees, that it may be my fault that they’re not being as productive as they could be. 

This is a prime example of “Do as I say” vs. “Do as I do.” While I can tell my team to do this or that, they’re much more likely to do so if they see me following my own advice. I know this stands true as I’ve looked up the chain and witnessed the same double standards. I don’t fault anyone for this; it’s hard to see if you’re not looking for it.

While thinking about this article, I found a great piece on buisness.com, How Exceptional Leaders Maintain Composure. In short, professionalism starts at the top. If you want your teams, staff, people to be prideful of their work and the work of others, you (manager, bosses, etc.) need to embody this way of life yourself. I recommend taking a look; it’s worth the read. 

The expectation is simple enough; if you want your employees to share in your goals and ethos, you need to be the first one to follow them. The hard part is remembering that everyone is asking themselves, is my boss doing what they’ve asked me to do?

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