Watching the face of a CEO talking to his employees was like watching a kid open presents on Christmas morning. The CEO was beaming as he listened to stories and dropped a few of his own. A bit earlier in the day, I watched this same CEO come down from the stage where he was rehearsing a presentation and introduce himself to those in the room whom he had not yet met. This is a leader who knows how to work a room but does so with a touch of genuine humility. He is the kind of person who mingles easily and, in the process, gets people to talk about what is on their mind.
This executive has an ability to connect with others, and, in doing so, he opens the door to conversation. This conversation allows the senior leader to find out what is really going on in the organization, not just what the reports tell him. It is something every leader is capable of doing but too many pass up the opportunity. Why? Because they feel they have too many other important things to do. But foolish is the leader who passes up a chance to meet and mingle with his people.
Here are three ways to make certain it happens:
1. Walk the halls. An executive who stays in his office all day, day after day, is one who views the world from a spreadsheet, not from another human face. Walking the halls gives the savvy executive a feel for the mood and tempo of the organization. You can feel the ups and downs in morale, as well as a sense of purpose.
2. Eat in the cafeteria. Is there anything more anachronistic than the executive dining room? This current recession may do some good after all. Kill the false sense of privilege that separates leaders from followers. Making yourself viable in the cafeteria is a great way to demonstrate solidarity.
3. Hold office hours. Okay, this may be a bit out of the ordinary, but if college professors can make themselves available to students, why can’t executives hold open-door sessions with employees? CEOs in small organizations do this regularly, but I do know that many senior leaders in big companies regularly hold employee town hall meetings, as well as appear regularly at small group events. Web chats, too, are a good way to connect.
There is something else that comes from “meeting and mingling,” and that is the opportunity to form a connection with others. That connection is reinforced with human interaction. It leads to support and eventually trust. It is the kind of support that gives a leader a boost when he or she needs to push hard on initiatives that may not be popular. Likewise, it gives the followers a sense of faith in their leader, a sense that the leader really cares about people as well as the bottom line.
Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence: How to Project Confidence, Conviction, and Authority by John Baldoni. Copyright 2014, John Baldoni. Published by AMACOM. For more information, visit www. amacombooks.org