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CEOs: Are Your Employees Willing to 'Ride or Die' for You?

CEOs: Are Your Employees Willing to 'Ride or Die' for You?

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By Dr. Marie Gould Harper  
Program Director, Management at American Public University

When I assist individuals with career development, I always recommend that they review prospective companies online at sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed and CareerBuilder. Not only do these sites provide some salary information, but there is also feedback from employees about working conditions at their company.

For example, current or past employees are asked two questions about the company: (1) Would you recommend this company to a friend and (2) Do you approve of your CEO? In some cases, the CEO’s approvals are much higher than whether you would want a friend to work at your company. How can the score for a person that most of us do not see on a regular basis be higher than hiring the right people to work with you?

I recently wrote an article on how my Myers-Briggs profile assisted me in identifying what kind of work environment would not suit my personality. However, based on my profile, I always knew the type of person to whom I wanted to report.

Given the nature of my personality, I work well with individuals who give me space and allow me to be creative. That’s the type of immediate supervisor I need.

Provide me with information about the final destination, and I will see you at the finish line. Let me know if anyone needs assistance to make the journey. I will be there to help.

Does the CEO Know How to ‘Steer the Ship?’

However, when it comes to the person at the helm, I need a different “feel.” For example, I need to know that the CEO knows how to steer the ship, not only in good times but when the winds kick up.

Is that leader still in touch with the grassroots crew, even though she must spend most of her time in her ivory tower? Is she doing what’s best for her employees or what is best for the company? Does she have an accurate pulse on the industry, especially when there is a shift in the industry’s fortunes? Will she stop at the edge of the cliff before any of the “sheep” fall off?

For the most part, the CEO’s inner circle of C-level managers will stick around to the end. However, what about grassroots employees?

Recently, I read a remarkable story about such a situation. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors Dr. Thomas Kochan and Dr. Cate Reavis developed a case study based on how to invest in your people, which appeared in an MIT Management Sloan School website.

The focal point of the case study was a company called Market Basket, a New England-based supermarket chain. In 2014, the company’s board ousted its CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, in a hostile takeover attempt. Demoulas had worked for the company for more than 40 years and had been CEO since 2008. Talk about loyalty!

Both customers and employees were offended by Demoulas’s ouster. Customers boycotted the stores. Market Basket employees went on a six-week strike until Demoulas was reinstated as CEO with full operational authority, along with 17 members of his management team.

Can you imagine having two important stakeholder groups – your customers and your employees – who believe in you so much that they are willing to “ride and die” with you? Do you have that same type of reputation?

Relationship Management Is Critical to Corporate Success

Emotional intelligence is a hot area of study. One of the last steps that leaders must master in developing their emotional quotient (EQ) is relationship management.

According to Free Management Books’ Emotional Intelligence and Relationship Management, relationship management is “the identification, analysis and management of relationships with people inside and outside of your team as well as their development through feedback and coaching. It also incorporates your ability to communicate, persuade and lead others, by being direct and honest without alienating people.”

In other words, can you be authentic while influencing people to follow and support you and your mission? Are you a real leader with followers willing to stand in agreement with you while watching the corporate dream come true? Do your supporters see themselves as a part of that vision?

According to Daniel Goleman, an internationally known psychologist, there are six competencies to master in the relationship management area:

  • Developing Others: Sensing others’ development needs and bolstering their abilities.
  • Inspirational Leadership: Inspiring and guiding individuals and groups.
  • Change Catalyst: Initiating or managing change.
  • Influence: Wielding effective tactics for persuasion.
  • Conflict Management: Negotiating and resolving disagreements.
  • Teamwork & Collaboration: Working with others toward shared goals. Creating group synergy in pursuing collective goals.

It can get lonely at the top, so invest some time and energy in bringing others up with you. Besides, you can make it a win-win situation with increased productivity as well as greater profitability.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

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