CEO’s Impact On Culture: 4 Things To Consider
There are days when I am very excited to start the day and others where I wonder what is in store for me. Recently, I had one of those “wonder” days when heading to visit a very successful business owner. Many times on my visits the individual temperature and heart rate of this leader can be “summer Florida hot” even in the winter and other times it can be “Northern New England dark February cold.” By the way, this has nothing to do with the actual weather outside. I decided that on this visit it was worth exploring how this was impacting his organizational health given the continual external challenges.
The minute the leader turned the corner I could tell he was in a good mood which meant it might be time to have that "carefrontational" conversation that would be needed. I got greeted with that warm smile of excitement like he couldn’t wait to tell me something. After learning that he picked up some new clients and that revenue was back growing again, he made a side comment that caught my attention. “It is funny, Mike, despite this great news, I cannot get the leadership team excited about this. But that is okay. They will be happy when their bonuses come in.”
Right then, I decided to ask the "carefrontational" question with a qualifier: “Would you mind if we park it right here?”
He said, “Sure, what is the matter?” I asked if he would mind if we dug deeper into his comment about the leadership team not being excited and he said of course.
I asked him that "carefrontational" question: “What role are you playing in their lack of excitement?” At first, he was dumbstruck that I asked, yet I let the silence fill the car and did not try to say more. He shifted in his seat and looked out the window. We had built the TRUST needed for this to be okay or it wouldn’t work.
From there we dug deep into how I experience his moods when I visit and asked what does his team experience on a day-in-day-out basis? It led us to a very moving and emotional phase, yet it was also powerful. He expressed how he allows his personal situation at home (good/bad) and the business results (day to day) to positively or negatively impact his mindset or mood. The light bulb went off about how that roller coaster impacts the organization's commitment to the goals and ambitions he has and also how at home his family might be feeling. It was so cool because he recognized it and articulated it versus me saying what I observed. He owned it…
4 Things CEOs Should Consider When Running A Company
A few thoughts for those of you running a company, especially a family one, that might help improve the overall business performance along with relationships you have at work and home.
Be careful to not attribute another’s actions to their character or personality. There are usually external factors that impact how people behave at work that impact how they are showing up that day. Invest time with your team to know what is going on personally and professionally so that when you notice a change, you can have that "carefrontational" conversation before it gets too far and they leave or you decide to fire them without understanding them. I have learned a new term connected to this called fundamental attribution error!
2. Vulnerability Space
If you as a leader are challenged with external factors contributing to your emotional feelings, so are other team members. Sharing that you are feeling stressed or concerned or experiencing some challenges at home can help your leadership team be more respectful and supportive. It can also help them share their situation. As a CEO/owner, I will assure you, over time, you will get a 2X-3X lift in individual performance when they know you care as much about their operational/financial performance as you do their personal welfare. Trust takes time but it does compound. The more everyone relates to each other the more connected the team will be, and when you need help they will be committed to it versus complying because you are their “boss.”
3. Structure with Flexibility
It may sound like a contradiction, yet what I mean is to put structure into your meetings with the team so they have a rhythm and cadence. We are humans and need connections and stability and knowing that there is a framework helps tremendously. That being said, during these get-togethers adding various exercises to keep people connected, reminding them why they are there, and adding some fun keeps people excited to attend and looking forward to the get-togethers.
4. Be a Learning Leader
Life is a journey and the fact that you are the business owner or CEO doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Nothing in your title says you should but many times we feel imposter syndrome if we don’t. My experience is intellectual curiosity and emotional intelligence are two of the most powerful traits a leader can and needs to develop. Ask for help and feedback, and listen to hear, not challenge. It might surprise you where in your organization the answers are. When you open up about what you need help with and are clear, there will be culture carriers who will rise up and help you.
The ultimate success of any SMB owner/CEO isn't to always have the answers. It is to truly know your team well enough to know who can provide the right perspectives for you to make the most informed decision for the organization. Let me know if you want to discuss this further or debate the thinking above by connecting with me on LinkedIn or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love connecting with high-integrity, growth-oriented business leaders who also care deeply about the environment and humanity.