Being that Mother’s Day is this weekend, I thought I’d give a shout out to my mom, Ann Potter and my Grandma (her Mom) Dorothy Willard in this week’s blog. Rather than the usual ‘thank you’, I’d thought I’d put my spin on it as it relates to leadership and the lessons they taught me.
A (few) Words on Appropriate Behavior For Leaders
I’ve actually considered starting an etiquette class or academy or maybe just an agricultural version of ‘What Not to Wear’. I should begin by admitting that I’m a stickler for all things polished and professional. I do not wear white shoes (or slacks, or carry a white handbag) after Labor Day and before Easter. I know. Many consider this passe’, I consider it civility. My Grandma taught me that and I’m sticking with it.
We all need guidance, my mom has certainly taught me a thing or two about presenting myself, as well. For example, when I was in high school, I loved Big Red gum and I chewed it ALL OF THE TIME. One Sunday after church my mother, Ann, asked me if I had thought that chewing gum in church was rude. “I hadn’t considered it”, I replied. She kindly suggested that I should consider it since I was in church choir. In our Methodist church, the choir sat behind the pastor, facing the congregation for the entire service. My sweet little mother turned to me and said, ‘Sarah Beth, do you like looking like a bovine chewing her cud to the entire community?” That I had not considered. Out with the gum until after services.
Appropriateness – such a sticky subject – is a broad category covering anything where the question becomes about what is acceptable and what is not. Your job is to steer younger leaders through these waters and develop self-awareness around the topic.
Some of the top areas where appropriateness becomes a problem:
- Distractions such as constant ‘selfying’ or ever-present Apple Watch notifications
- Social media posting that is a breach of confidentiality or has derogatory, inflammatory, or crude content
- Dress – for the girls it’s often too revealing or too casual. For the guys, often too casual or too sloppy. Or the wearing of ‘fun’ t-shirts with implied naughtiness. For example, in high school I bought a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase: ‘Stick It’ at a marching band contest. I loved it; I was a drummer! …Mom suggested that this was not becoming of a 15-year-old ‘young lady’ who was also class president, Salutatorian, youth group leader, and Homecoming queen candidate. She burnt it.
- Careless display of your farm or company logo such as on dirty attire when not at work, having a logo vehicle somewhere it shouldn’t be located, or wearing torn or unkept logo items in public
- General messiness and disorganization whether that is on the desk, in the truck, or in equipment
- And, for the finale, the very sensitive topic of … romantic relationships with or among the employees.
Bottom line, your emerging leaders must be the role models for other employees. Don’t excuse them from this responsibility, especially if they are family. The easiest way to help correct issues is to meet them head on – and then have a written policy in place that can be shared with everyone. Many of these items, especially those related to distractions, are a serious matter of safety, but they are all a matter of respect.
None of us are perfect and, admittedly, some of our Momma’s taught us better manners than others. And, of course, there are the times when, even though we were ‘raised right’ we do things, wear things, or say things that we ‘should have know better than to do’. A brush up on manners is just a nice reminder to be conscious about how we present ourselves, something we can all benefit from. So, especially with young leaders, if you see something that’s detrimental to them, help them out in a kind and confidential way. Even if they don’t immediately thank you, I bet their Momma would appreciate it!
ACT Like a Pro Out There – and very special thanks to our very specials Moms, Grandmas, Aunts!