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How managers can signal what’s important

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I’ve covered the role of the work environment in shaping our behaviours quite extensively on the blog, and of course it forms a central plank of the 8 Step Guide to Building a Social Workplace.  In this post however, I want to focus less on the environment, and more on something a little bit more mundane.  I want to focus on the behaviours of senior managers.  I want to talk about the seemingly irrelevant things that senior managers do that nonetheless communicate strong messages to employees about what is important, both to the senior managers and by proxy, the organization itself.

Suffice to say, you want to make sure your own behaviours are consistent with all of the systemic changes you’ve made.  You want to make sure they reinforce and support the kind of behaviours you want to see flourishing in your organization.  So, with that in mind, you might want to think about some of the following questions, and what they reveal about your priorities.

  • Where do I spend time?  What gets included in my diary?
  • What questions get asked frequently vs those that are never asked?
  • What issues get followed up on vs forgotten?
  • What topics are constantly referred to in public statements?
  • What themes are covered in speeches?
  • What issues are important enough to meet about?
  • What topics get on the agenda of those meetings?
  • What things get celebrated in your company?
  • What symbols are used?
  • What kind of language is used?
  • How do you use social events in your organization?
  • What kind of people are invited to these events and where are they held?

This is of course just a summary of the kind of subtle things that can reveal a lot about the priorities you hold.  Ask yourself, if you’re trying to convey a more collaborative culture, do your own behaviours support that desire?

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