Leaders Understand the Role of Symbolism

posted in: Passion, Positivity 0

We all work and breathe in four organizational frames.

These frames are Political, Structural, Human Resources, and Symbolic.

  • Political—power, conflict, coalitions
  • Structural—organizational charts, policies, procedures
  • Human Resources—meeting individual needs, teamwork, leadership, people problems
  • Symbolic—culture, ritual, stories, traditions

In times of change, the first two—political and structural—are usually where the change originates from. The bottom two—human resources and symbolic—are where the changes unfold.

Most of this blog series has taken place in the human resource frame—how to meet people where they’re at and gain integration.

Here, we’ll talk about the symbolic frame.

This frame includes inspiration. Looking toward the future and the big picture of what a change can bring.

There are four key questions within the Symbolic frame:

  • What are we afraid we’ll lose?
  • What do we think we’ll gain?
  • What is sacred?
  • What answers do we really need?

When change occurs in the workplace, ask yourself and your team these questions.

People are more willing to accept change if they’re inspired to accept change.

So ultimately, what do people need from their leaders during times of change? In his book, The Servant Leader, James Autry offers some ideas:

  • They need to be able to find meaning in their work and feel that it’s important.
  • They need your honest appraisal about the real conditions that affect their job—economy, market, possible job impact.
  • They need reassurance of seeing you, the leader, remain clam, centered, and focused in times of crisis.

What motivates you? The opportunity to work and build relationships with colleagues? The process of the work? The satisfaction of doing the work itself? Meeting goals? The challenge of working through problems for a unified result?

Everyone is motivated by something different.

And in times of change, sometimes these motivations are difficult to get back on track. But through trust, open and honest communication, shared knowledge, and a spark of inspiration, the team can succeed and become an even stronger force, where possibilities are endless.

This is the final post in an 11-part series discussing what leaders can do to effectively navigate through times of change. I hope that you’ve not only enjoyed this series, but have found it to be useful. If you missed any of the posts, they are listed below with links.

Post 1: Leaders Help Others Navigate Change
Post 2: Leaders Recognize Denial & Frustration in Others
Post 3: Leaders Recognize the Moment of Resignation in Others
Post 4: Leaders Encourage Through the Final Stages
Post 5: A Real Life Change Curve Example
Post 6: Leaders Stay Above the Line
Post 7: Leaders Accept Personality Differences During Change
Post 8: Leaders Avoid Withholding During Times of Change
Post 9: Leaders Embrace Relationship Power
Post 10: Leaders Are Aware of Heightened Stress During Times of Change

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