What does lead by example really mean?

How often have you heard a team member complain about something they’re not happy with at work? And how often do managers complain about the performance of some of their team? We all do it sometimes. But how should issues be raised?

Staff look upwards to decide what is appropriate. This is especially true with communication standards. If managers and team leaders are undisciplined with their own communication, you’re more likely to see that mirrored by the staff.

If the leadership team demonstrate effective listening, accurate and disciplined verbal and written communication, you’re making it much easier for your staff to do the same.

Staff need to know how to address problems and issues constructively, otherwise team morale and productivity can suffer. If staff feel there isn’t an avenue for them to voice problems, they may decide the only way to deal with it is to resign. Not helpful in a tight job market and unnecessarily disruptive and expensive when you think about having to recruit, onboard and train up a replacement.

So, what are your options? Ensuring you have clear communication pathways in place is a good start. At a minimum, consider the following:

  1. Communication and complaint resolution procedures and policies. Usually documented in an induction manual or similar and delivered to all staff. They should include clear instructions covering:


    • Expected listening standards
    • Acceptable verbal and written communication standards
    • Expectations for delivering on work commitments, and how non-compliance will be managed
    • How to handle a situation if you’re unhappy with other staff (including a more senior member of staff)
    • What your options are to resolve an issue if you’ve tried to fix it, and you’re still not satisfied.


  1. Staff check-ins. A monthly catch-up between a manager and their team member to ensure any problems or issues can be voiced and addressed calmly off shift. For a 360-review process to work, staff must feel that it’s safe to be critical upwards to management, otherwise they’re unlikely to voice issues and concerns out of fear of reprisal.

Effective leadership = effective communication. This is leading by example.

If you’d like to learn more about communication essentials for hospitality leaders, consider attending our How To Lead workshop.

Ben Walter