To copy is normal!
We are built to see, watch and emulate other people. We are pack animals and like to be with others. In fact, being with others is a big part of the makeup of our good health and wellbeing.
If you have children or have watched children growing up, you know and have seen a healthy “copying” where the child sees others eating and wants to eat on her own; where the child sees others walking and wants to walk on his own. We are copycats and that is part of how we learn.
Sometimes being a copycat creates pressure to behave like others in a group. In this case we copy and we conform to the group by copying their behaviour. Choosing to copy in this way we give up a little bit of ourselves and in some cases we give up a lot of ourselves as the group overrides some of our basic self.
Copying your leader
When we lead people, being aware that there is a large chance our team will copy our behaviour in some way, means we have a responsibility to lead with integrity and in a way that brings out everyone’s best self.
I’m always mortified for myself or others when I hear an adult say something, not in one of our best moments, and a pair of young ears are too close. The person those ears belong to often repeats our emotional words in their little voice. Copying us in that way holds up a mirror in which we often recognize behaviour we prefer not to repeat.
Yes, your team at work is older and they use choice words of their own, however they are still influenced by you, by what you say and by what you do. They will be influenced when what you say does not line up with what you do - they can copy that. They will also be influenced when there is misalignment between what you expect of others and what you expect of yourself, or if your expectations vary from person to person - they can copy that too.
What is means, if you’re a manager
The ability to influence others as a first-time manager or more senior leader is a blessing and can provide opportunities for you to grow. The blessing comes when you provide a strong leadership model they can emulate, they can be copycats of your best leader self. This helps you build a team with strong leadership all the way through your team.
The growth comes when some of your less than stellar behaviour gets emulated or taken out of context. The opportunity is to see your behaviour for what it was, make a correction and bring out the humility to have that conversation that says I made a mistake (this is tough for some of us and a necessary skill) or to say I’ll do better next time (this is tough too and makes you vulnerable - yuck!) and then, you say to your teammate, “I need you to do the same” - that’s powerful. This too builds deeper strength in you and your team!
Keep up the effort and keep the conversations going!
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