6 things I would do tomorrow if I was a CEO
These are extremely captivating and challenging times for most companies. Everyone faces the same challenge: doing more with fewer resources. Furthermore most CEO’s I meet want to manage their company in a positive and conversation-worthy way. Well, they want to, but they are often faced with the difficulty to get the momentum going and to align all collaborators.
Evidently such challenges are not solved in a flash. My experience tells me that a company often feels that there is a new dynamic by changing several small aspects. After a captivating meeting I thought: what would I do if I were the CEO of a large company tomorrow? Not taking into account all important responsibilities and the time-consuming matters which fill a company leader’s agenda, I would add these six things to my personal agenda:
1. Searching for small factors of irritation in my company
Customer satisfaction is too often seen as a school result. However the challenge is to understand the story behind the numbers. Some top managers do not understand that their clients are dissatisfied. Some are not involved sufficiently, or sometimes they no longer spot the obvious improvements or mistakes after a while. I think dissatisfaction is often caused by small things. Clients are sometimes frustrated by a detail. If I were CEO, I would like to map those sources of irritation and check what I can do to solve or avoid them in the short term, without too much extra cost. It would increase client satisfaction, but would also give the collaborators the message that all details are important when dealing with clients.
2. Random acts of kindness to top collaborators
Nothing is more motivating than a pat on the back by the big boss! Collaborators are dedicating themselves on a daily basis for their company. When they have the impression that the company leader notices and appreciates it, their self-confidence and motivation rise. As CEO I think it would be a splendid idea to get into the habit of surprising a collaborator every day with a sincere and honest pat on the shoulder. If your company employs 1,000 people, you can send 3 mails of the kind per day. And if someone did something really extraordinary, you can put the spotlight on that person and make sure that everyone notices him / her. Don’t forget to mention why that person deserves the public appraisal!
3. Aligning internal and external communication
If the internal and external communications are different, it must be very confusing for collaborators. The only types of relevant internal communication are several operational matters. Content news or the company strategy seems to me to be something which should be communicated both internally and externally. When talking about transparency, this also implies sharing the communications with both collaborators and clients.
Furthermore it seems like a great idea to change the classic patters of internal communication. A CEO usually sends a monthly update of the state of affairs. There is also a once-a-year speech to the staff, evaluating the past year and looking forward to the coming year. Why would we not change these fixed habits and send more regular updates and share knowledge with clients and collaborators more frequently? The practical elaboration is described further (see point 5).
4. Doing customer service towards some clients
Being customer-oriented is evident, but we too often make decisions without totally realising what the impact on the client will be. In order to sense what the clients want and need, there is no better way than to get direct feedback from them. As CEO it seems extremely relevant to me that you are the main contact for certain clients, and it will also be a strong signal to your collaborators. Even in a large company you can be pragmatic about this. Choose a group of x clients and send them a personal mail that they can address you for all their problems. Many people shy away from the extra work this will entail, but it’s only a matter of coming up with a good structure to make it feasible. Furthermore not every client will mail every day to communicate a problem. In the end the client won’t believe what he is reading when he directly and personally gets a mail from a large company’s CEO, right?
5. Content: Managing my own blog and Twitter account
I would also like to Twitter myself and manage my own blog. As CEO I think it is a brilliant mindset to share your vision with everyone and to tell them what you are working on. Many collaborators see the role of a CEO as something intangible. Make it tangible, and thus become a â€˜person’ rather than simply the big boss. People are milder to people than they are to functions. Research has shown that CEOs on Twitter can count on more empathy and sympathy than those who are absent. It makes a CEO very accessible and it immediately shows his/her opinions on certain topics. A blog is an extra interesting way to give a detailed description of the company’s history to collaborators and clients.
6. Frequently being present on the workfloor
I realise that, because of function level and work experience, a CEO is often different from the average collaborator, and I think many became CEO because they have certain capacities which others in their company do not have. However I know that many companies send their new managers onto the shop floor during their first months as newbies. At AHOLD they participate in the Albert Heijn shop life (grocery store), at Praxis (Dutch DIY chain) the managers also work as shop operators in their first months. I think a CEO should do that also, but more frequently and not incognito.
So just to be sure: I realise these things do not fill or determine a company strategy. I just consider it to be six minor tactical moves which may just have a major impact on the elaboration of the strategy. What do you think? Would you choose the same 5 minor changes, or would you choose a different path? I’m curious to read what you think!