Becky Falkingham: Top ten ways for a CEO to stay connected

Knowing what’s really happening on the ‘shop floor’ is a critical requirement for every leader but modern office life often isolates CEOs from the gossip or chat that provides a vital link to the workforce and the business’s clients.

The CEO merry-go-round working life of office, boardroom, and scheduled meetings can mean CEOs unintentionally cut themselves off from the very communications channels that provide regular temperature checks on anything from employees’ views on pay and conditions to how clients are responding to a new product launch.

Ways to keep in touch

So how does the modern CEO keep in touch? I’ve pooled the collective knowledge of my fellow partners at The Alexander Partnership to suggest ten ways to help prevent the CEO falling into splendid isolation.

1. Take a LBWA
Not the catchiest of acronyms admittedly but ‘Leadership By Wandering Around’ can be surprisingly effective. The best leaders are a source of energy and inspiration for their business and they should schedule regular time with frontline staff, customers and suppliers. Critically though, they should also ensure they have unscheduled time – such as turning up unannounced at meetings where they’re not expected and taking regular turns around the office floors to make sure they develop a ‘warts and all’ view of what’s really going on.

2. Form a Praetorian guard
Create a small band of trusted individuals who a CEO can trust will tell them the unvarnished truth. If it worked for Roman emperors…

3. Host a regular Question Time
Employees should have regular access to the CEO and the chance to ask questions. This can be done online, by phone, or face to face at regular town hall meetings.

4. Have lunch in the office cafe/canteen
Again, it’s an impromptu opportunity for the CEO to sit with random employees and hear what they have to say.

5. Attend social events
CEOs attending work socials have the opportunity to ‘work the room’ and maximise their chances of picking up useful insight (as long as they leave early to allow people to relax).

6. Listen to the Millennials
Choosing a younger member of staff to provide reverse mentoring can help a CEO address critical knowledge gaps when it comes to insight on new technology and new ways of working, as well as picking up on useful company gossip.

7. Invest in customer and employee insight
There is no harm in investing some time and money in a more formalised process for harvesting employee and client views. Using net promoter scores to measure customer satisfaction and employee engagement can be particularly valuable.

8. Listen to the exit interview
Why an employee leaves an organisation can be hugely insightful. CEOs should have ready access to the results from exit interviews.

9. Blog it
The CEO can use the company intranet to share their thoughts and, most importantly, to encourage feedback on particular initiatives.

10. Use social media
Sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn or Facebook can provide valuable insight as to how employees really feel about the organisation they’re working for or have left.

These are some of our suggestions for ways a CEO can stay connected. If you’re a CEO or in senior management, what’s helped you stay in touch with the business you lead?