In the past month I’ve had several instances where people have talked to me about a similar problem. Managers expect their subordinates to do as the manager says but not to do as the manager does. The instances have included wardrobe, promptness, and policy. In each case the manager violated the rules he had established and then was critical of others for the exact same behavior.

In the first case the manager was critical of a lower manager’s attire because it was “too casual and not professional”. It involved a blouse that was worn over slacks and was not tucked in to the slacks. The senior manager was wearing jeans and in fact regularly wore jeans to the office. When his subordinate tried to defend her wardrobe choice as professional he interrupted her and told her to think more carefully before she dressed for the office. As you can well imagine his admonition was soon the talk of the office and his perception by the people in the office who report to him as well as others in the company diminished quite severely. It was apparently okay for him to dress unprofessionally but not okay for those reporting to him.

In a second case a person was chastised for coming late to the office. She did arrive late but assumed it was okay because her boss was often quite late to work and she did not have an appointment until 45 minutes after her arrival which gave her plenty of time to prepare. She assumed regular starting time was a suggestion and not a hard and fast rule since her boss often came to work well after the suggested time. In similar fashion her story became common knowledge around the office rather quickly and the person who suffered was her boss, not her. Others were amazed he had criticized her for her promptness when he was a serial violator.

In the third case a manager consistently failed to follow protocol as directed by the guidelines he helped draft and institute. The guidelines were part of the indoctrination for all new hires and the biggest violator was the senior manager. His performance severely undermined his image to the rest of the staff. And again, it is amazing how fast these matters move around an office or a firm.

In each of the above the issue is the exact same: the manager expects others to follow his words but clearly sees no relationship between his words and his own deeds. When I wrote my book I put in the Introduction a reference to this kind of behavior as one of the reasons for writing the book. Specifically, managers unable to manage themselves have proven, in my experience to be poor at managing others. Managers unable to follow their own rules create huge problems when they expect others to obey those rules.

The old adage: actions speak louder than words is dead on point in these situations. Actions do matter and the actions of the boss or manager are vitally important in communicating to the group and organization. For new managers this is a most important point. The best way to establish behavior is to practice that behavior yourself. If wardrobe should be professional wear professional wardrobe and set an example. I remember a lunch meeting with the head of Toyota when Casual Fridays first began. We discussed the importance of supporting this new venture while at the same time still setting a proper example with our choice of casual clothes. Both of us understood the importance of setting the proper example.

Do as I do is a more effective management tool than do as I say.