9 Symbolic Gestures a Good Boss Can Make

Think FDR's fireside chats or Reagan's beer stein.


There’s a lot of talk today about the importance of symbols that our national leaders can provide in times of crisis. Think FDR with his fireside chats, telling us there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. Reagan leaving the working man’s bar holding a beer stein as he's cheered by the mostly out-of-work patrons. JFK going hatless at his cold inauguration, signaling that there was a young wind coming to inspire and lead.

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If you are a new leader in business, should you be concerned with symbols? Or, should you be somewhat disengaged, always profit-oriented, and communicating by well-thought-out memos and E-mails to staff, one and all.

Here are nine examples of simple symbols that you can send during a time of crisis. Which symbols have you seen at your own job?

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1. During layoffs, be visible. Wish the laid-off workers well and encourage those who remain. Show your feelings.

2. Lose the preferred parking spot. If you get in early, then you get to park closer.

3. Work hard to get others some recognition. It is not always about you. And, be sincere about it.

4. Always be authentic and sincere. Be calm. But it is OK to be outraged, even angry.

5. Do not do press interviews of the "I am so smart” variety. Too often, one can talk one's self into doing them, because "it will help the company.” Mostly, however, they serve to ignite your already smoldering ego into a fire that needs more and more fuel.

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6. Encourage a Habitat for Humanity effort and then take a shift yourself.

7. Send handwritten notes whenever possible. For whatever reason.

8. Celebrate small incremental improvements. Big things like launches can end up with their own lives, while hitting a benchmark on time gets lost. It might be the most significant achievement of the day for someone.

9. Zig when others zag. People want to know they work for a leader who isn’t afraid to be first, or the fastest, or the one that kills an old standby product.

G. L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, which operates LinkUp, one of the fastest-growing job-search engines.. His blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com.


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