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Walk the talk – it is something every leadership expert recommends.
Being a good leader is not just about saying the right things, it is also about doing the right things. It is about leading by example.
But sometimes, leaders either inadvertently or intentionally misstep.
For example, take the recent visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the Mayo Clinic. Pence drew widespread criticism for touring the prestigious Minnesota hospital without a mask, ignoring the Mayo Clinic’s rules that all occupants of the hospital wear masks.
Explaining that he undergoes regular tests and has tested negative for the coronavirus, Pence felt he was justified in ignoring the hospital’s rules and the CDC guidelines during his visit. And perhaps he was.
But as a leader who has regularly called on Americans to follow the CDC’s guidelines to stop the spread of the coronavirus – including the recommendation that people wear masks in public – the VP’s action sent potentially dangerous signals.
The visuals of the scene undermined his authority, put his judgement into question, and suggested to the public that perhaps he think the rules do not apply to him or that it’s OK to ignore health experts.
Yesterday, Pence seemed to understand the poor optics of the situation and admitted, in hindsight, that he should have worn a mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic.
To prevent automotive executives from making the same kind of mistake during the reopening of their businesses amidst COVID-19, here are some of our recommendations.
• Walk the talk and lead by example
• Treat all the safety practices as urgent and important
• Be highly visible to employees doing the right things
• Follow the same safety/sanitizing protocols your employees have
• Undergo temperature scans upon approaching the facility if applicable
• Complete the COVID-19 self-assessment questionnaire
• Wear the same PPE and/or mask in the workplace that you are providing employees
• Practice social distancing all day, every day
• Acknowledge, encourage and thank those employees who are doing the right things
• Put employee safety first, always
• Be patient with employees – this environment is new to all of us
• Think long-term
• Offer hope and a clear vision of a better future
• Try to skirt or skip the safety protocols, even when you think no one is looking
• Act as if the safety protocols don’t apply to you
• Belittle or bemoan the new safety protocols and the inconvenience they create
• Think that employees are not watching you
• Wear the personal protection equipment (PPE) improperly or ineffectively
• Wear higher-grade PPE than you are providing your employees (i.e. don’t wear a N95 mask and a face shield when you’re only providing plain cloth or paper masks to your employees)
• Ask employees to put their own or others’ safety at risk to meet production targets
• Expect everyone to be at maximum efficiency right away
• Lose your cool when there are snags or setbacks in operations
• Forget your humanity
It is a stressful time for everyone. But as a leader, your people are looking to you to rise above the stress … to be calm, poised and positive … and to walk the talk.
Stay safe, be well and set a good example for your team!