Employees listen, interpret, and even dissect the words and actions of their leaders. They talk to their peers, trying to make sense of key messages. As they do so, employees look past what leaders say, and they focus on what leaders do. Leaders may say that they care about x, y, and z, but do they really? Employees will look at how leaders act and how they allocate resources. They will examine what efforts and accomplishments are recognized most often by senior leaders, and which are not. What does the organization celebrate most visibly? They will examine how leaders spend their time - what types of meetings do they attend most often, and what types of things don't receive their attention much. In the end, the words don't matter much. The actions do. Leaders have to mean what they say. Employees will be looking to see if that is the case. In so doing, employees will be interpreting and deducing what the leader's values and priorities are. In the end, it doesn't really matter what the leader intends... it matters what the employees conclude and believe. Perception is reality. Leaders, then, must make a great effort to examine in an unvarnished way what people actually believe in the organization. What is their sense of the priorities and values? What do the employees actually think leaders care about the most?
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