Stand to Attention – CEO on Deck!

A good friend drew my attention to a piece in the Wall Street Journal about the CEO emerging from hiding in an attempt to engage staff. The piece starts by saying:

“As the economy recovers, employees are more likely to see a new presence in the office—their chief executive.

Chiefs who spent last year battling the recession are coming out of their foxholes to talk more with staffers. It’s an effort to boost morale, solicit ideas and better understand employee concerns. Some hope to stave off defections ahead of a job-market recovery.”

I can’t help but feel this is too little, too late. Surely part of battling the recession involves engaging with staff, walking the floor talking and listening through all times. Good, bad and indifferent? What do you think? And how about other members of management, what have they been telling the CEO in the meantime which has maybe convinced her to stay away from the frontline for so long?

We’ll be discussing this and other current engagement issues on April 14th in London at Engaging for Growth. We’ve had a great response and there are now just a few seats left. Drop me a line if you’re interested in attending.

Here’s the link to the full article.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

4 thoughts on “Stand to Attention – CEO on Deck!”

  1. I kicked this discussion off on LinkedIn too and have had a few responses so far. John Wurl got in touch to say:

    “I miss the olden days when we heard from our CEO at group meetings once or twice a year. I don’t really care to get a pep talk from an individual who has no idea of what I do or who I am and who is paid 100 times more than I am. The reality is if I have ever left a job it was because of the management I worked with on the daily basis, not the CEO. Management today has caused most of the companies problems; I mean lets be real, through re-engineering and cutting from the 80’s and 90’s there is very little competent management. And now we are going to have a cheery CEO who is going to ask our opinion… I don’t think so. The last time I met a CEO was at Christmas, when the C-level managers stood in line at the cafeteria to shake everyone’s hand, and our CEO shook my hand and she said to me “You are valued”; I went out to lunch…”

  2. …Pete Massey then added:

    Most great CEOs I know wander around dangerously learning what’s really happening. I love this quote from Jeff Bezos to my colleague Bill at Amazon and that became the basis for a much more systemic set of processes we now advocate and use with clients – called WOCAS – what our customers are saying. Jeff: “Bill, can I please get a daily report of the most interesting customer-thing going on in customer service that day. It’s the thing I would notice myself if I were doing cs that day. It should be one paragraph … “

  3. …which prompted me to say:

    @John, I really enjoyed reading your note. Part of me strongly gets exactly where you are coming from, I doubt many people are fans of insincerity. But, the repeated act of getting out and about dangerously learning as Pete puts it, is habit forming. I guess that initially most people may respond as you have done, maybe more might be fearful of some underlying motive and resort to silence as their method (much worse!).

    I think these feelings of mistrust come from the fact that CEO engagement is so sadly lacking that when it occurs, people just….doubt it, at best. So it takes determination and a good deal of persistence on behalf of great leadership both to start dangerously learning, and continue with it. In this way I believe the doubts you so eloquently state John, can be overcome. Through sincere repeated dialogue, not merely handshakes in the lunch queue.

    @Pete – just love the idea of dangerously learning, great way to start the week, thanks!

    Thanks folks

  4. …and Sean Trainor added:

    “This conversation reminds me of the Billy Connolly sketch when he explains the day he realised that the upper class circles he now operates in are very similar to the circles he operated in on the Govan shipyard. He found that those that “toboggan” for a living are just as interesting as the guys that “weld” for a living – it’s the assholes in the middle that let society down – you know, those that are preoccupied by the price of their house and bore you to tears in the pub. Sadly these bores dominate middle management positions. The welders would get on far better with the tobogganists than the bores, as BC proves, if only someone would make the connection.”

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