I continue to be amazed by the extent to which many leaders fail to recognize the signals that they are sending through their actions. Consider the following situation. A leader gives a variety of speeches and presentations in which he says XYZ is the highest priority for his or her organization. That particular leader then spends a disproportionate amount of time and energy focused on another objective/activity of the organization. He or she recognizes accomplishments with regard to the letter, while offering few moments of celebration or recognition for those who are achieving progress now what was allegedly the highest priority of the firm.
Employees pay attention to how you spend your time, what you celebrate or recognize, what you are passionate about, and even the order in which you address topics during speeches or presentations. You can't say one thing and do another without someone noticing. In fact, a lot of people will notice. As the disconnect becomes apparent, you lose credibility as a leader. In many cases, leaders simply do not have the self-awareness to understand the extent of this disconnect. The signals they are sending are indeed rather subtle. Nonetheless, people notice. You have to understand the symbolic nature of your actions. You have to put yourself in the shoes of your workforce and understand how they might interpret your actions.