What Do Organization’s Need Today? A CEOs Who Really “Gets It”

While waiting for a minor surgery this past week, I asked for reading material. Out comes a newsletter, a printed one.

This hospital — American Hospital Dubai — had just hired a new CEO, Mr. Peter Makowski. His introductory greeting was on the first page of the newsletter under the headline, “From the Desk of the CEO.”

I love it when they get it

What I found in that newsletter was a quote from the new CEO. He gets it. In his introductory message to his employees, he said that his job as CEO was based on the best description that he has heard to describe a CEO’s role.

He wrote, “The CEO of a hospital job is to serve the people who serve the people.” Powerful! However take out the word hospital and this can be scaled not only to the CEO but their executive team as well. You serve your people and they will in turn serve your people [the customers].

As I gazed away after reading that statement, I thought that if you get your team to buy into that one statement, you are on your way to rock this hospital.

I have always had this theory about retail customer service that when you go to these stores and there is this rudeness from the staff, I figure that somewhere along the line there is a disconnect — especially if everyone is rude.

Here’s a case in point is: Have you ever asked for help at a Nordstrom’s? When you do, it’s absolutely amazing! Now, I know some of you may say this is because of the commission the staff makes, but I will tell you that pay does not buy top-rated customer service. It never does and never will. It is not always about the money

It starts at the top

First and foremost, as organizations enter into a new realm of existence, leaders have to get it. That is the statement of the decade. It starts and ends with them. I have even heard of Boards getting into this sustainable phenomenon. Letting the people at the top lead this initiative is the greatest trickle-down theory you can have, and really, it’s the only way for it to work effectively

This issue does not belong to HR or another department. It has to sit in the big office.

I met with a CEO recently and I was amazed by his engagement level. If you go to an HR executive meeting in that organization, the CEO sits in. He also encourages everyone to stop by his office for a quick chat. That tells me he gets the hospital analogy.

He is not the only one. I have met more CEO’s than I can count over the past few months who seem to revel in this new role. Yes, they are fully engaged and they want to get in on the conversation. As a matter of fact, their aim is to drive the conversation as much as possible.

The formula is simple

If you are driving the strategy, you have to drive the engagement. They should be connected at the hip. Good engagement plus good strategy equals a sure win. Bad engagement plus good strategy equals not a chance in hell.

Leadership has to take care of their people in order for them to take care of the customers. Vineet Nayar, the former CEO of HCL Technologies, redesigned his company around this concept. His book based on this experience, Employees First, Customer Second, is a must read for leadership as well as managers throughout your organization. As a result of his effort, HCL Technologies reached heights that had never been achieved.

Sure, there will always be skeptics, but you can’t worry about them. You have to make sure that your efforts are authentic. Your workers can spot a phony 10 miles down the road. Once the trust is lost, it’s likely you will not get another chance.

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Employees want their leaders to be more trustworthy and transparent. Employees need to know what is expected of them and to be treated with the utmost respect. They look to their leadership to connect with them, from the mail room up the inverted pyramid.

Your people are looking for authentic leadership

Employees just want the truth. They have learned that the old ways of doing things just don’t apply (as much) today, and more than ever, they need their leaders to have their backs. They want leaders who are concerned first and foremost about their team’s well-being.

This takes more than a weekly meeting. This is about one of my favorite terms — “managing by walking around.”

At Martha Stewart Living, we had a TV studio that was about an hour and a half from our corporate office. We had approximately 100 employees stationed there. My decision was to drive there every Friday and work out of that office. Driving on Fridays from New Jersey to Connecticut and back is not the smartest decision, but my mission was to connect.

For the first few weeks I did this, everyone knew that HR was in the house but that was about it. After they saw that this would be a regular thing every week, my Fridays in that office were full with conversations about jobs, promotions, and the future of the organization. I knew then that I had connected. I showed authentic leadership, and most of all, I connected with this brilliant unit that produced all of our media efforts.

We also had a CEO during that time that got it. Walk in any day and you could find her in the mail room discussing sports. Everyone felt comfortable in greeting her as Sharon. She got it.

A new breed of leader

There is a groundswell that is working in all of our favor, a new breed of leader out there who is not tied to the legacy of the old model of leadership. They want to connect in every way possible.

Their new motto should be, “Serve the people who serve the people.” Thanks Mr. CEO, for that inspirational quote.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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1 Comment on “What Do Organization’s Need Today? A CEOs Who Really “Gets It”

  1. Great article Ron! You rightly said – “they get it”. I hope they share their management style with their counterparts in other organizations. So that it spreads faster. Hopefully your article will be read by many and contribute.

    Thanks for picking such an important topic & talking the time to write about it!

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