Leading by Example - An Interesting Approach to Lead

Albert Einstein once said “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.”

To compliment this quote, let me tell you a story. Story begins 16 years back when I started working as shop supervisor in a mechanical workshop. Workshop had around 25 skilled technicians. Most of them were in age group of 30s to 50s. It was a challenging job for a 19 year old boy to manage these experienced and skilled workers. Hence I had various wonderful learnings during this job. Following is one of such interesting learning.

Very first day, when I entered in the workshop, I found it very unclean and untidy. There were some obvious reasons for being dirty. Like being a mechanical workshop, there was lot of scrap production daily. Lot of oil was being used for lubrication along with various coolants also. However, still there were good reasons to believe that it can be comparatively cleaner. I felt a need to change or improve. Being very new to the Organization, I decided to wait for sometime. Eventually I started discussing with team members about cleaning the place. One day I got a simply reply from few workers for not cleaning the workshop, that was, "Either we can clean the workshop or can complete our day job. You tell us what we need to do". Sound familiar :). Even today sometimes I heard similar reasoning that, "Either we can improve the code/process, or can make the delivery". I understood the problem and gave it some more time.

One morning, I thought that I should clean my place at least. My place comprised of one table, chair, cupboard, some documents and lot of dirt. I spent 3-4 hours and cleaned it completely. All the workers were looking at me quite surprisingly. At the end of the day, I was happy that I did what I liked and what I should have done. There was no expectation around. Next morning, 2-3 of the workers came to my seat and told me that they also wanted to clean their place. They asked, can I manage the time break for cleaning. I took the responsibility and told that I shall manage it. They called all other workers and discussed with them. That day, all the them worked as a team and cleaned the workshop for 4-5 hours. Results were obviously pleasant. Workshop was completely changed, air was purified. All of the co-workers were appreciating the change themselves. Earlier they had to find a clean place to have their tea, now whole workshop was cleaned enough to sit anywhere.