In Business Success, Featured, Leadership, Leadership Development, management, Rick Conlow

Let’s face it, CEO’s are often isolated from the average employee. Most are sequestered in the penthouse office of the corporate headquarters. They can’t dance with employees because they think they are too busy to engage them. Too many don’t dance because many have lost touch with reality.  They operate in a bubble and don’t attend the party. (Dancing here refers to engaging employees in multiple ways.)

For example, The Great Man showed up for budget review in a white limo, flanked by two black SUVs. He entered the building protected by multiple body guards. Local executives gave presentations to him on a stage in an auditorium setting. This CEO sat way up in the stands. All lights were off except a spotlight on the presenting manager and the CEO’s reading light. When things weren’t right he interrupted or degraded them. This archaic practice motivated no one. It wasted a lot of time and generated fear and insecurity.

CareerBuilder found that 40% of employees don’t even know their CEO’s name. Worldwide, nearly all employees agree that CEOs are paid too much for the value they bring. Add the fact that 87% of the world’s employees are disengaged. Because of this, CEOs are leaving a tremendous amount of employee potential talent and contributions on the table. By not dancing, CEOs cost their companies billions of dollars of lost employee innovation, productivity and customer service. Here are three reasons why CEOs let this happen:

CEO priorities are mixed up.

Among CEO top priorities are generally sales growth and profit. While companies have to grow and make money, executives often forget how it happens. They pay way too much attention to numbers and data and not enough to the power of people. Customer loyalty generates sales growth and profit. Customer loyalty comes from an exemplary customer experience.  Employees determine the quality of a company’s customer experience.

Consider GM as a case study. In the 1940’s, Peter Drucker praised the company for its product decentralization but criticized it, even back then, for treating employees as a feudal cost center rather than a base of knowledge and potential. The lack of quality for their customers has dogged GM for years. Even today, GM has record recalls. A finance executive said this of the decades-old corporate attitude, “We are GM. We know everything. We don’t need to change.” How wrong they are! GM market share fell from 62.6% to 17.9%, from 1980 to 2015. In between, we all know about the bankruptcy and bailout. The point is, unfortunately, so many companies have the same attitude about employees and customers today.

CEO’s don’t communicate well.

According to several management studies, a key reason leaders derail  is that they don’t communicate well.  According Dr. Travis Bradberry,  CEOs and other executives have the lowest emotional intelligence skills of all management levels. Research shows that CEOs only spend 4.3 hours a week on people management issues. These means they aren’t very good at one on one conversations, cultural sensitivity, listening, team-building, managing their emotions, handling conflict or communicating clearly. This list goes on but you get the picture.

A global IBM study found that 33% of CEOs had engineering degrees and another 15% had finance degrees. CEOs focus on data, facts, figures and metrics.  No wonder the #1 issue on employee engagement surveys is the lack of communication. CEOs tend to think communication is too “soft” to pay much attention to it. Yet, according to the change master, Kotter, 70% of their strategies fail to reach their intended outcomes because of poor execution. A lack of communication is the usual culprit.  As an employee, I am sure you can identify with the poor communication you have seen from your employers related to: expectations, priorities, medical benefits, lack of recognition, policy changes, work procedures etc.,   Most, if not all, of this is avoidable.

CEO values are often misplaced.

Over 60% of all CEOs say that creativity is their most important trait; only 12% say fairness and humility are.  Kouzes and Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge,found that over 80% of managers value honesty as a key characteristic in their leaders. Yet 82% of employees don’t trust their boss, according to the Edelman’s Trust Barometer. Too many employees don’t trust their companies either. Now I know some very fine CEOs; however, far too many CEOs think more about their perks and paycheck than their people.

The book, The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M.R. Covey, demonstrates that the lack of integrity and ethics causes problems for managers and companies all day long. If the culture of a company is about countless checklists, policies and procedures, employees will begin to look over their shoulders rather than doing a great job. Their task becomes not getting caught making a mistake as opposed to doing a better job. With trust, most people rise to the occasion and go the extra mile. Fred Kiel is author of Moral Intelligence and Return on Character. He shows that corporate leaders with high integrity and compassion have greater returns than leader who are egotistical and self-absorbed.

Those CEO’s who don’t dance think business is only about the bottom line. It’s really about people: employees and customers. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of 400 companies, has built a large organization on this very principle. He’s dancing, having a great time and so are his people. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to invest and spend your working years?

Do you want to benchmark your career with the habits of highly successful people? If so, check out this complimentary inventory and guidebook: Success Practices.

Want to really advance your career? Check out one or more of our books in the Superstar Book Series for a boost.


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