Lead by example: Behaviour equals training

By Hugh Alley   

Business Operations Industry Manufacturing behaviour leaders manufacturing performance training

Your teams are watching what you do and say, and learning.

Team members take their cues from leaders’ behaviours.

If you hold a leadership role, your teams are watching you. They look for tell tale signs of what’s going on in the same way as a fortune teller looks at tea leaves. What they see is your behaviour. As a leader, you need to be aware of what your behaviour says, whether it’s overt or subtle.

For example, if your firm provides reserved parking spaces for all supervisors and managers, you’re communicating that your role entitles you to special treatment. By contrast, if you take a space in the general lot, you place yourself with the team.

If you rush to get other stuff done and make a decision on the fly, you communicate that the facts don’t matter so much and it’s okay to make a decision based on your gut feel or mood. If you face a new problem with curiosity and take time to ask questions and get the facts, you demonstrate the appropriate behaviour is to dig into a problem.

Mark Rosenthal, an experienced lean manufacturing/quality director and manager, explored in his blog the concept of corporate culture and how it changes ( He says, “In the end, I think [different definitions of culture] all come down to various ways of saying ‘how people talk to each other.’ This includes who talks to whom, and what structures and rules guide those conversations.”


It’s all part of how we behave. The challenge for leaders as people who strive to improve performance is to choose what that behaviour teaches the team. Regardless of what you do, the team will learn something. The question is what?

It’s a natural to observe how authority figures treat people, how they respond to problems and challenges and how they treat work, then take cues from that behaviour. Although this puts pressure on you, the nice thing is you choose what your behaviour teaches.

If we are curious, respectful, and interested in the facts, that’s what they’ll learn to do. If we jump to conclusions and are dismissive of others, they’ll learn that too.

Your choice.

Hugh Alley is an industrial engineer based in the Vancouver area who helps organizations achieve significant performance gains. Call (604) 866-1502 or e-mail

This article appears in the May-June 2019 print issue of PLANT Magazine.



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