Leadership Hacks: How to Help Executives Engage with Their Employees

By: Gene Morrissy

I recently had a discussion on creating organizational impact with a C-level executive of a large corporation. We chatted about how important and yet difficult it was for him to find time to connect to the many people in his national organization.

While challenging, it is still possible to build structures that can accelerate a leader’s ability to create connections through layers. This will increase the likelihood that personnel—from the top through the shop floor—understand and are aligned around strategy. I want to offer a couple of ideas on how to create useful tools that are quite simple and yet have a powerful impact, in part because they are deliberate and still authentic. They might be called “leadership hacks” in today’s vernacular.

Deepening Awareness of a Company Strategy

Often members of the senior team have a sound awareness of the strategy. They should; because they created it! Yet more than one layer down, people may not. What to do? Well, here’s what not to do. . . . Do not hold a town hall and present a slide show! Instead, next time you are in the cafeteria at work, try this. Tell the person behind you that you will buy their lunch if they can list the four pillars of the current strategy (or whatever is a key message that must get through the noise). If they know what it is, they get a free lunch, and everyone that person sees will know the strategy before tomorrow’s lunch. If the person does not know it, they will before tomorrow in the hopes of another chance. This is what I call a “twofer.” Something like this goes viral fast and you get two benefits for the price of one lunch. Furthermore, the individual may get some bragging rights.

Building Better Bonds Through Layers

From time to time, skip-level leaders walk through their departments with the manager for meet and greets with staff. Sometimes employees are nervous and do not know what to say except “hello” or respond to questions. Instead, tell the department leader to provide you with a list of two to four people to speak with, their personal situation (vacation, baby, kids, etc.), and/or their professional progress (such as their work on an important assignment, recent sales win, a certification, success on a project). When the leader stops and offers praise, congratulations, or asks questions about the event, it is meaningful to each individual. It shows concern and interest. Those individuals also tell their friends and it has positive ripples as it goes viral. The interest cannot be feigned, of course. Actually, this one is more than a twofer, because it requires the manager/director to know things about their employees. It demands engagement from them too!.

These small “hacks” reflect what my colleagues always say, “a little structure goes a long way.” Each is deliberate and yet provides an opportunity to connect and build relationships between levels. If you are a manager, director, or C-level individual, try it out. If you are a frontline employee, go guerilla and slip a copy of this blog under the door of someone a couple of layers above you. I’d be curious to see if they read it.

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