As an entrepreneur you're very much under a microscope. Your team watches you closely; your customers pay attention to small slices of their experiences with you and make up what type of person and company you are in their own heads. And so do your vendors and investors.
Business leaders understand that your habits matter. Here are what I consider to be five essential "integrity habits" to behave at your best and positively impact your team.
1. Be on time, all the time.
We have to start with first things first. Be on time--all the time. This simple behavior symbolizes to your team that you take your commitments seriously and live with integrity.
Sure it's easy to slip, your team always seems willing to wait. But the message being late sends hurts your credibility inside your company.
When you take appointments and deadlines seriously, so will your team. It is one behavior with a huge return on investment in terms of modeling accountability inside your company.
Too many companies implement respect in a hierarchical manner. Your time is not more important than an employee's time or a customer's time in their eyes. Being on time shows respect, and it makes a big difference to the receiver.
And of course you can rationalize why you didn't meet a stated deadline and no one will challenge you, but they will model the behavior you show them. So model the high standard of being on time, all the time.
2. Clarify all action items and deliverables in writing at the end of every meeting.
One of the biggest reasons things get missed is because they weren't handed off cleanly to begin with. Many times the receiving party doesn't know just what they've been asked to do, or in fact they may not know that they've been asked to do something at all.
Hence the need to clarify all action items and deliverables in writing. Not only does this make sure that you've captured all your action items, but it is also a powerful way to role model how you want your team to behave.
Wherever possible, number the commitments so that they are absolutely clear.
At your next meeting this might sound like: "Okay, summing up here's what I've committed to: I've got three action items here. Item one is to review the Johnson Proposal and make a yes or no decision by this Friday end of business. Item two is to give feedback via email to Carl about the new orientation process. And item three is to send out the date of our next quarterly planning session to the exec team by noon tomorrow. [I encourage you to visibly write each of them down in your notes as your meeting progresses]. Now Cheryl, I have down that you've committed to two items..."
Teach your team to employ this same skill with their staff. It's a best practice that companies that execute adopt.
3. Clearly state what you can't commit to so that you don't lower the accountability bar in your company by missing a "phantom deliverable."
"Phantom deliverables" are those things that the other person thinks you committed to but you didn't.
As a leader, you need to exhibit great communication by making any phantom deliverables you see come out of a meeting explicit. That way if you can commit to that deliverable, you do so, and if you can't, you clarify that you are not committing to it.
4. "Close" the accountability loop.
It's one thing to meet your commitments, but it's another to make sure that the other parties involved get that you've done so. So "close" the loop.
"Mark, as promised, here is the Data Form Proposal due to you tomorrow..."
5. Be aware of your stress behaviors.
It's been said that adversity and pressure don't so much make the person, as it reveals the person. What you do at stressful moments leaves a magnified impression on your team, your customers, your vendors, and your investors. So let stress be a trigger for you to take a deep breath and behave at your best.
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