February 2014: Leverage the power of symbolic acts.

Pope Francis insisted on paying for his hotel room himself and took the bus home because he wants to remain a man of the people.  Gannett CEO Gracia Martore gave up her $1.5 million bonus and took a 1-week unpaid furlough along with all the company’s employees because earnings were down and she wanted them to know they were in it together.  Tom Brady, the famous New England Patriots quarterback, took a pay cut because he wanted the franchise to have more money to invest in incoming talent.

There’s no denying that actions like these are far more impactful than any words that could be spoken or written.  Symbolic acts are things that we do to communicate, very powerfully, our values, priorities and intentions. 

As leaders, we often overlook the power of symbolic acts to reinforce that which is most important and to build trust with our constituencies.  We focus more on saying and less on doing.  As the adage goes, actions speak louder than words. Today, think about something you can do to signal your commitment to something important to your troops, customers or colleagues.