What do your employees want from you as CEO? Many people would say things like vision, good strategy, trustworthiness, etc. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these things (and they are a great idea, by the way), they aren’t the big thing. As the leader of an organization, or a team, it has to be about those your leading as much or more than just the initiative.

Recently a group of people at all levels in various organizations were asked what they would like to see their CEO do differently. By a 4 to 1 ratio the top comment was “Meet with the team leader and key employees more regularly“. People in the organization want to feel connected to leadership. The relational element of leadership has been forcing its way to the forefront.

The social dynamic, that has been encouraged by the influence of social media and the preferred way of being managed by the influx of millenials, has experienced a significant shift from what many leaders have grown accustomed. Then again, perhaps this has always been there but a strong economy has kept it under wraps, as it were. Whatever the reason, it is where things are now and if you want to be a leader in 21st century business it’s best you read the writing on the wall.

People don’t want to have the ivory tower CEO. They want to organically connect with leadership. They want to know that you’re a real person who understands that they are real people. They won’t respect you less. According to the question posed, they will actually respect you more.

Here are some tips to “get in their world”.

  1. Learn their ideas – Create some way where people can talk to you about their ideas. It could be something to make their job easier, a new product/service idea, or anything. Write a CEO blog and actually read the comments. Start a CEO/employee forum on your intranet. Offer a service for people to record podcasts with their ideas. Anything that gives people a voice and a connection to senior leadership!
  2. Know their work world – Sometimes there are things that aren’t the most fun things to do and they can be burdensome, but they are absolutely necessary to get things done. While none of us enjoy these tasks, it’s nice to know we are understood. Find out what some of the challenging or not-so-savory tasks that HAVE to be done. Then reach out to those doing them and let them know you understand how challenging it is to fulfill those tasks and thank them for still keeping such a great attitude. This can be used for so many areas.
  3. Know their personal world – This isn’t an invitation to be some creepy stalker or get all in their Facebook status updates. Simply walk around the space where people do work. People like to personalize their workspace with things that are of value to them. It could be their kids soccer, maybe they’re into building gas powered airplanes,  or perhaps they are involved in a non-profit because their child has a health problem. See how you can get behind some of these things. Talk to people about their lives. An organization that cares about their personal world means a million bucks to employees.
  4. Learn their career goals – Find ways to help them develop professionally. Maybe they envision themselves moving to another department or division in 3 years. What can you do to help make that happen without jeopardizing their current responsibilities? Ask them how the organization can support their aspirations. You will be amazed at how low your turnover rate will fall by just doing this one suggestion.

If you’re anything like me, you like to talk. Put your gift of gab to good use. You have a carte blanche invitation to chat with people beyond your direct reports. If you’re not the one for excessive discourse, then create a way for people to have a voice where you can respond in a personal way. Healthy 2-way communication is essential for quality employee engagement and a productive organizational culture.