I’m coaching through a problem today: some team members saw an executive walking a friend to his car. The man was smoking, and we have a no-smoking campus. And several of my team smoke.
The old saying “monkey see, monkey do” doesn’t really apply to employees except for this. If they ever observe you pushing the envelope as far as rules go, they’ll take that as permission. If they get called on it, after all, they can just point at you.
That’s why I hold myself to a much stricter standard as far as rules go than I do my team. I know that seems backward. After all, isn’t rank supposed to have its privileges? But the way I see it, I’d rather cut them some slack and have them see it as kindness, than have them see me do something I won’t permit them to do.
It’s about obligations. I have an obligation to my organization to see that rules are followed, at least in spirit. I also have an obligation to my team to treat them fairly. So I give them a break when I can, but they know it’s an exception because they never see me doing it. It builds trust, and leaders can’t lead without trust.