Bonni and I have made a commitment to attempt (in the best way possible) to raise Luke as equal partners. We believe it is good for Luke, our family, and our careers to balance parenting responsibilities.
One of the results of this choice is that I care for Luke on Wednesdays while Bonni teaches. All the important folks I do business with know this. It’s just not practical to attempt any work when caring for an infant.
Here's the thing: babies tend to nap – so a few times I’ve gotten on the phone or email a bit on Wednesdays if he’s asleep. And as soon as I do, everyone forgets that I’m gone on Wednesdays and the calls and emails start coming in. Then of course, Luke wakes up and I’m gone again – but I’ve already given people the false impression that I’m available.
People expect me to be available when they hear from me, regardless of what I've said previously. Exactly what I would do too, if someone set a similar expectation with me, but then was available a ton at the time they said they weren’t.
This is just the most recent example for me of why leaders need to closely align actions and expecations. The are three essential reasons for this:
1) People ignore what we say when our actions don’t align. I see this happen often with organizations that advocate “work-life balance”. The leader preaches the importance of balance, but works tons of evenings and is on email lots during weekends and holidays – and maybe even brags about it to people. The smart people in the organization recognize this immediately and work longer hours too. They recognize what the leader really values.
2) We lose leadership credibility when we are inconsistent. When we say one thing and do something else, people are even less likely to pay attention the next time we set an expectation. I once worked for a leader that was so bad about starting meetings on time that I finally stopped scheduling one on one meetings with her unless she asked for them. She had lots of wisdom, but it wasn’t worth the frustration of waiting around.
3) We miss out on whatever we strategized to do. If we’ve set an expectation as a leader, there’s probably a good reason why. Either we’re following a new strategy, responding to feedback, or (in my case) trying to lead a balanced life. When we don’t do what we say we will do, we also miss out on what we intended. I completely negate my parenting goals when I start engaging in the workplace on a day I’ve set to be focused on Luke.
I need to align with my expectations and stay off email and phone on Wednesdays, even if I have a few minutes of time.
You might need to make a shift too. What’s the shift you should make as a leader to align expectations and actions? Tell me in the comments below.