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There are many executives who can master the hard-wired tasks of leadership — developing and communicating a vision forward, establishing goals and objectives, creating processes to hold people accountable, and, ultimately, to execute on plans that yield the promised results.    

But there is more to leadership.  Much more.  Great leaders are also great people who can master the equally important soft skills — someone who will take the time for an authentic word of praise to a line employee who is producing good results, encouragement for a worker who is struggling in a new role, to personally welcoming back to work a new mother who has returned following her maternity leave.  The truly effective CEO will know about the long-time employee who is battling a chronic joint disease and is hoping to make it to retirement in eight months or of the nurse whose father passed away.  That CEO will personally connect because it is an important part of what he or she must do to inspire and to lead.

To be this kind of leader, a CEO must invest in a plan and recruit a team that can help him or her be that kind of leader.  At the core of such a plan, there must be a foundation, an authentic culture where exceptional performance is expected and rewarded.  The plan must establish strong lines of communication between Human Resources and the CEOs assistant(s) — HR must produce the actionable information and the assistants must execute the action plan that will equip the CEO to be effective in employee interactions.  You cannot and should not ever “wing” this type of employee engagement and communication.  It must be researched and executed with purpose. 

Here are some elements of an employee engagement plan that CEOs may want to include:

  • An end of shift digital flash status report that goes to the CEO and all members of the senior leadership team.  This report highlights issues from the evening, overnight or weekend shifts — the tragic deaths, the service quality disruptions, the unexpected surge in volumes that overwhelms staff, creates quality concerns and/or produces frustrations — highlighting opportunities to provide personalized support and encouragement from the CEO of the executive who oversees the department.
  • A personalized birthday card with a custom note from the CEO to each employee. The card should be delivered to the employee’s home address.  Printed cards do NOT count and should never be used.  Mindless or template employee engagement is worse than no engagement.
  • An employee’s employment anniversary is personally recognized in the presence of his or her fellow colleagues.  They are given a personal note from the CEO during the visit by the executive responsible for the department.
  • Pre-Application Video from the CEO that each potential employee must review before filling out an application.  The video emphasizes the organization’s mission, its vision and values in a way that every new employee, from the C-suite to the boiler room, can understand.  The video should make it clear that people who cannot passionately embrace those values will not be offered employment.  The same video should communicate the CEOs commitment of visibility, transparency and engagement to the prospective employee.

© 2012 John Gregory Self