“Do as I say, not as I do”

“Do as I say, not as I do”

This is not a really a quote, but an expression. The derivation is believed to originally come from the Bible, Matthew 23 “For they preach, but do not practice” when Jesus highlighted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in the Temple. Years later a book by Peter Schweize titled Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy sought to expose the public utterances and conflicting private actions of leading ‘progressive’ USA politicians.

What relevance does this have to being a good manager?


Let me give you an example. It was a condition of site entry in a business I was involved with that all staff had to either sign in or use an in/out who’s on site entry board. Two senior managers, including the CEO rarely did this, despite it being mentioned and noted in safety and management meetings. One day we had a fire evacuation drill which is mandated by law. This is where the building is evacuated and the site safety representative calls out the names of those on-site to ensure everybody is out of the building. After the names were called out you are asked to stand to one side. This is to ensure that the fire safety drill has worked successfully.

In this case, two people were left with their names not called out – the two senior managers. One made some excuses. The other was embarrassed.

How did this look to staff? Well you can only imagine.

Staff pick up hypocrisy quickly, word spreads and the authority of management and company policies are eroded. Also the moral authority or status of individual managers is severely weakened. In this case it seemed to demonstrate to the assembled staff that either safety was not important and/or that there were two sets of rules. I witnessed plenty of sniggering and hushed conversations at the time.

Another example is the wearing of safety vests in industrial environments such as warehouses and construction sites. In the business mentioned earlier, it was a requirement for all staff to wear safety vests and this was enforced by the supervisors. However some senior managers still continued to walk around the site without safety vests as required by company policy. Warehouses are potentially dangerous places, especially with fork lift trucks and other equipment on site. Even worse, this action unsettles operators who have to perform their duties with a heightened level of concern that, at any time, plain clothes staff can and will wander the warehouse, exposing all parties to risk. These actions undermined the authority of the supervisors and in discussions with them, reduced the respect for the managers who did not abide by company rules.

We are often bombarded by media coverage of politicians in safety vests, goggles and hard hats on the campaign trail. Whilst this may seem like overkill, it does send an important message. What would be the affect if the politicians did not wear the prescribed person protective equipment?

Management is about integrity and leading by example – you can’t expect staff to perform or conform to the required standards if you as a manager or supervisor don’t. Do the right thing at all times, and your staff will respect you for it. Don’t and you will pay the price, at the least in lost respect and poor compliance and at worst – an avoidable site injury or fatality.

As a manager your actions are important to the organisation, yourself and the staff…

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