My 10 yr old son has a bad habit of saying “I know” to almost everything. Even after he’s asked you a question and you give him an answer he’ll belt out “I know.” After he did this to some people not his parents we had one of those father/son conversations about respect. I promised to raise his awareness to help him curb the habit.

Fast forward two days and I’m working out in a class of about 20 and the instructor comes by to tell me that I need to watch my knee so it doesn’t go over my ankle during an exercise. My response “I know.” Boooo. Now both my son and I have been given the authority to help the other get out of the habit.

So what does that have to do with business? Everything. My son caught how I acted and emulated it.

In the same way, your employees catch the culture, values, rules, service levels, and work ethic from you and your executive team. Your customers do too.

Do you have an “open door policy” yet stay in your office with the door closed all day and avoid all other conversations except meetings?

Do you expect on time attendance yet arrive 30 minutes after everyone else and leave by 4 everyday?

Do you say you are looking for new ideas, risk takers, and innovation but people who try anything outside the norm get a frank discussion and put on a performance plan?

(note: all of the above examples are real)

Your employees are catching all that and it effects every decision they make, their loyalty, their attitude and much more.

But I’m the boss you say. That’s why I started the company. So I can do what I want, when I want. That’s true. Just know that your employees AND YOUR CUSTOMERS understand that too.

Homework:

It’s hard to see what your culture is from the inside. A way to re-frame how you look at your business is to look at someone else. The next time you go into a client, partner, or vendors business stop and take in the immediate impression you get. Did you get greeted? Was that person friendly? Is the place clean? Bright? Are the employees happy or do they look bored or fearful? What is the interaction like during the meeting? How was the follow up?

Now think about your employees and customers coming into your business and interacting day to day.

What are they catching?

Just like kids catch how to act from their parents, your employees catch how to act from you and your team. So before you trot out the next round of vision, mission, and values make sure you are living them first.