Reader Q&A: How To Make Actions Convey Your Agenda

Tips for getting feedback and how to communicate a reorganization

How can you tell if you are sending the right message? Actions are subject to mistranslation. How can a CIO get feedback to correct a wrong impression?

HAVE A LEADERSHIP QUESTION?

See more reader questions and answers from Executive Coach Susan Cramm

Symbolic action is about doing things to reinforce your verbal messages and eliminating actions that conflict with what you intend to communicate. It starts with a strong point of view of your strategic opportunities and how you want others to behave. For some leaders, the opportunity is to eliminate conflicting behaviors. In other cases, it's leading by example. Confidential feedback can identify behaviors that aren't working, although it's tough to interpret and identify substitute behaviors without some help. Since you can't ask those you intend to influence (it sounds feeble to ask, "How should I behave so I get others to do what I want?"), it makes sense to ask a trusted advisor, perhaps someone in human resources, a colleague/friend, or a coach.

I will be reorganizing my IT department. What actions can I take to convey the need for this decision?

You need to communicate both logically and emotionally. Logic ("Why are we doing this?") is easier. It can be expressed in traditional forums by sharing the enterprise and IT challenges, alternatives and implications. Emotion ("What about me? ") is trickier. It must address the fundamentals of motivation: equity, achievement, and connection. Equity requires treating others fairly and respectfully. Achievement entails supporting the goals and motivators of others. Connection means making others feel part of a community. For your reorganization, powerful symbolic actions include: communicating individually or in small groups to discuss the reasons for change, ensuring that reductions impact all levels, asking where people want to be in the new organization, providing transition support where needed, and being on the frontlines to listen, empathize, and inspire.

Susan Cramm is founder and president of Valuedance, an executive coaching firm in San Clemente, Calif. You can e-mail feedback to susan@valuedance.com.

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