Reinvent: How CEOs Listen

The CEO simply walks into a room, says hello, and asks employees what is on their minds.

He doesn’t bring a Power Point, leaves the entourage at the door, and moves the podium offstage. In fact, there is no stage, as he calmly moves around the room, responding to what he hears from workers.

Today, employees making choices to engage have little interest in prepared remarks from any leader. They have low tolerance for what seems scripted and no willingness to watch a series of slides crowded with numbers. Workers simply want to experience how a leader listens, before they hear what he or she has to say, so they can decide if they will trust. And, if they trust, they will likely engage.

This new reality in how CEOs communicate challenges the leader and the communicator.

Most leaders like to control every aspect of an appearance; few are so comfortable in how they appear that they willingly appear without the usual crutches.

But workers couldn’t care less for the crutches. The slides, without context, are meaningless; the commitments, without authenticity, ring false. Workers want to know who the leader is, how he or she thinks and make decisions, and what the CEO stands for before they will listen, much less accept and engage.

As communicators, it’s up to us to help CEOs adjust to this new reality. We must thoroughly understand what workers need and educate – with clarity and depth – to help CEOs understand how essential the informal conversation can be. Unless we advocate for what workers hunger, there’s little chance they will ever be fed.

The CEO simply walks into a room, says hello, and asks employees what is on their minds.

And, as he demonstrates he knows how to listen, they look forward to what he has to say. Now they are ready to listen, too.

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