Sunday, September 18, 2011

We are Great Imitators

On Labor Day weekend, my wife and I went to visit her friends at the zoo, the penguins. While we were wandering around, I saw a father and toddler son walking. What struck me as we followed them was that they were walking in same exact manner. Their feet were splayed out at the same angle. They both walked on the balls of their feet and their heels didn't touch. It either was learned or there's some physiological reason for it. It's not unusual for families to have similar walking styles, however.

We are great imitators. We're very quick to match someone else's speech pattern. It's not long for someone who moves to the southern states to pick up some of the drawl. Same thing in the Midwest. I find myself quickly matching the cadence and grammar of an alien's English-speaking style. I might subconsciously try to make them feel welcome or match the output of their mental translating process.

Because we hang around each other at work a lot, it's also not unusual that we pick up the behaviors of those who have a solid reputation within the organization. Subtleties like where paper is stapled, sign-offs on emails, the generosity of smiles or dearth of good humor, etc. are easily copied.

As a leader, you want them to copy the right behaviors. You want them to adopt the ways of thinking and the ways of acting that will bring success to the company. You're first step is to exhibit what you want them to do. For example, if you practice the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, they'll soon imitate. Pretty soon, they'll be "walking the talk" like you.

For some practical advice, read the short Servant Leadership Practice: 40 Days to Transform Your Leadership and Your Organization, available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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