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Of all the ‘do-ers’ in history, Benjamin Franklin stands out as extraordinary.  He was one of the founding fathers of this country, a diplomat, and an inventor. He created the postal service, and he invented swimming fins, the odometer, and bifocal glasses. However, the accomplishment I find most compelling was his ability to objectively see his weaknesses and then methodically work to improve in those areas. Franklin realized that to change behavior, you must practice changing the behavior. And if you manage people, you can learn a lot from his example.  

Franklin grew up in a Puritan society with a heavy emphasis on morality, but he loved to get a rise out of people. He was often argumentative and played Devil’s advocate much of the time. But in 1726, at the age of 20, he realized that his behavior was creating as many enemies as it was friends. So, he devised a plan to improve himself. He understood there were areas in his life where he often ended up going down what he called an unvirtuous path and he wanted to change that. He decided to work on a list of virtues that he felt would counteract his negative behaviors.  

Franklin decided to focus on one virtue per week and then repeat the cycle every 13 weeks. To keep track of his progress, he kept a checklist labeled with the days of the week and the virtues he was working to develop. It looks like he might even be responsible for designing the first habit tracker! The following are four examples from Franklin’s list of virtues that still resonate in today’s workplaces. 

  1. Silence: Don’t talk just to fill the silence; give the floor to those who have something meaningful to say  
  1. Sincerity: Don’t gossip or speak badly of others; assume positive intent, and if you’re going to speak, speak the truth 
  1. Justice: Live your life by not doing harm to others; realize that your actions may harm someone else 
  1. Humility: Keep your pride in check; humble people are easier to trust and communicate with   

Although the idea of moral perfection may sound dated and possibly irrelevant, improving oneself in order to manage better is crucial to a manager’s success. Especially when 50% of employees leave their companies because of their boss. To make sure you don’t add to the statistics, take some time to do a little self-reflection. Take the time to evaluate your ability to listen, be sincere, stand up for what’s right, and show humility. Being a role model for these virtues will allow you to meet your direct reports where they are and help them grow. In this post-pandemic world, it is no longer enough for a manager to plan, organize, direct, and control resources in order to achieve organizational goals.  

Quote: Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement,   

achievement, and success have no meaning.   


As a manager, your responsibility is to model these behaviors so that others will follow suit. It’s all about being a ‘doer’; setting the example of doing versus just thinking about it. To become a doer, follow these five simple steps.  

Step 1: Ask for feedback  

Ask for honest feedback from those you know have your back and want to see you succeed. Their critique will help you see your actions through a different lens. Feedback can be hard, but when given with love and kindness, it’s exactly what we need to help us get to that next level. And it’s a good reminder to show the same respect to those you have to give feedback to.  

Step 2: Pick your area of growth 

We all have room for growth.  It’s just a matter of homing in on a particular area and staying consistently focused. Maybe you want to get to know your teammates better or connect with your own manager more authentically. Whatever it is, you have to name it to claim it, so don’t skip this step.  

Step 3: Create a plan of action  

Identify one behavior that needs improvement. Don’t set yourself up to fail by choosing 20 new things to work on. Instead, focus on one behavior until it becomes a habit. Every manager will have different areas they need to work on. And kudos to anyone who takes this step because it’s never easy to admit that we have areas where we need to improve.  

Step 4: Start Practicing 

Consistency is key so use a habit tracker to track your progress. Creating a habit can take 1-2 months. The timing varies depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. Just remember that getting started is the hardest part. And missing a day here or there isn’t going to make or break the process. It’s not an all-or-nothing endeavor. 

Step 5: Rinse and repeat 

This is where the rubber meets the road because once you’ve collected some feedback from your trusted circle of peeps, established your area of growth, created an action plan, and begun implementing the plan, the only thing left to do is to do it again and again and again until it becomes second nature. When a behavior becomes habit, pick a new area of growth to focus on. 


To be an effective manager requires self-reflection. And this soft skill causes many to just skip over it and move on to the more tangible aspects of managing. Doing that is a major mistake.  Today’s post-pandemic employees are demanding managers that are role models.  And really, the only way to encourage behavior change in others is to model it yourself. In plain English, this means it starts with you. You must walk the talk and show them the way. No human is perfect, but we can certainly look to Ben Franklin as a great example of at least one who wanted to right his wrongs and show up in the world a better person for himself and those around him. With that in mind, following his example of choosing behaviors to improve upon and then practicing them until they become ingrained in your character may be a great place to start. Becoming a better human will make you a better manager and could be your most important legacy. 

Moral perfection is probably impossible but changing behavior is not. At Brilliant People™ we offer management training that focuses on improving behaviors around communication, motivation and productive conflict. Call us today for a quick chat to see how we might help! 

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