4 Communication Strategies For Beleaguered CEOs

The 2015 Edleman Trust Barometer is out and Chief Executive Officers are taking a beating.

Photo by S. Charles

Less than half of those surveyed (43 percent) trust CEOs, down 9 points from a high in 2011.

Do you trust your organization’s leadership?

Seventy percent of respondents don’t perceive a CEO to be a believable source of information about a company. And if the CEO’s company is less than trustworthy, you will communicate that belief. Survey respondents said they reacted to distrusted companies by,

  • refusing to buy products/services (63 percent),
  • criticizing the company to a friend/colleague (58 percent), and
  • sharing negative opinions online (37 percent) about distrusted companies during the past year.

So what’s your CEO or organization’s leadership supposed to do? They feel pressure coming from all sides.

They need to meet quarterly and annual goals to please Wall Street, the board of directors, a governing office or other stakeholders. But they can’t satisfy those groups without a high-performing team that understands the organization’s goals and continually develops innovative and creative ways to cut costs or increase the value or volume of their products or services.

In the book, “Good To Great,” author Jim Collins describes the trait that sets the best CEOs—Level 5 leaders—apart from the rest:

Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

Leaders Must Share

Here are five strategies to help leaders share, communicate and build trust:

Share your time: Take time to listen to everyone involved with your organization—customers, janitors, competitors. Meet with people and listen to their concerns. Acknowledge past wrongs and, if possible, correct them. Keep your eyes and ears open because transformational ideas often come from informal meetings.

Share the spotlight: Recognize good people doing good work. Hold up the people who do the dirty jobs and make it possible for everyone else to do their jobs. Be wary of recognizing the person who always exceeds benchmarks but their character or methods are called into question. The credibility of the leader and the organization are constantly in play.

By Alejandro Escamilla

Share how you’re accountable: You can’t satisfy this requirement by relying on media reports on the CEO’s compensation increasing or decreasing compared to last year because a bonus was dependent on a performance benchmark. A transparent organization–one where the CEO’s goals and performance review are available for all to see–will be an organization that’s striving to achieve alignment.

Share the shared vision: People need to know what success looks like. Time and effort are required to show people the steps to make the vision a reality. Don’t make the mistake of only sharing the vision at the annual meeting or when performance lags.

Share the wealth: Someone trusted the CEO or leader enough to give them that position. In banking terms, the organization placed a deposit in the leader’s account. Next, the leader must make a withdrawal from that account as they give or extend trust to people at all levels of the organization. If the organization’s systems and processes are properly aligned, no one bounces a check because everyone makes the proper and necessary deposits and withdrawals in the trust account.


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