After his first dinner as head of the Catholic Church, the newly selected Pope Francis rode the bus to his hotel with the all the cardinals instead of taking the car specially prepared for him.
We learned that Francis flew economy from Buenos Aires to Rome, he kept his silver cross in lieu of a new gold one, and he carried his own luggage and paid his bill at his hotel himself. When asked by reporters why he did all of these things, his spokesperson said, “Pope Francis would like to set an example of how members of the clergy should behave.”
I think we’ve forgotten the power of setting a good example. I know very little about the new Pope yet I already respect and admire the man, and not just because he’s the Pope, but because he’s visibly living his beliefs.
I think we underestimate the power of acting in line with our beliefs as compared to talking about our beliefs. As the saying goes, it’s easy to talk the talk. But, it’s important to walk the walk. Especially if you’re a manager or in a position of authority, your actions make an impression on others. A junior employee checking out of a hotel and paying her own bill? It would be noteworthy if she didn’t do this. But, a senior manager bringing a coffee for a junior employee—stop the presses! Setting a good example can be as simple as getting someone a coffee. Every good example doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. In fact, sometimes a small action can have a big impact.
Several years ago, I was the CEO of a business that had a lot of challenges. Each day I had one meeting after another, with very little unplanned time. One day, when I was walking between meetings, one of my managers, Dave, asked me if I was eating lunch that day. As it happened, I didn’t have lunch plans, so Dave invited me to the baby shower of someone on his team. “Sure, Dave, why not?” Dave and I went to Daisy’s shower along with the rest of his department. We admired all the little baby clothes and ate cake and after an hour, returned to the office. It was fun, especially since it was spur of the moment.
Imagine my surprise a year later, when Daisy told me that she had decided to stay with our troubled company because I had taken the time to attend her baby shower. “Denice, I was really worried about the challenges we were facing and I was concerned I would lose my job,” she confided. “I had another job lined up, but when you came to my baby shower, I thought: ‘How bad can the business be if the CEO has time to come to a baby shower?’“ I had no idea at the time the impact that my spur-of-the-moment gesture had.
Sometimes even small actions, like getting coffee or riding the bus, can have a big impact. So, if you’d like to be happy at work, get on the bus. I promise you, you’ll enjoy the ride.