Being in a high-growth company is both fun and exciting. As the founder of a five-time Inc. 500/5000 company, I've experienced it firsthand. And as a business coach, I've also worked with dozens of CEOs who have been on that rocket ship as well.
And while it's thrilling, it can also be isolating for the CEO. As the company grows, you spend more time focusing on selling customers, pitching investors, attending conferences, and meeting with suppliers and partners. All of this means less time with your people and hanging around the office.
The result is that you become less connected to your team. And while some of this is just a natural consequence of growth, effective CEOs put in place good habits to minimize the impact.
The best CEOs I work with make a habit of sending out a weekly communication to everyone in their company to keep everyone informed and up to date on what's happening at the highest level. For some it's an email; for others it's quick video, blog post, or Slack message. Regardless of the format and medium, there are several things they all focus on and include whenever possible. If you're a CEO on the go and want to improve your connection to your people, here's what you should include in your weekly message.
The best thing you can do is highlight wins. People love good news, and it sets the tone for the entire company. Keeping things positive while being realistic and acknowledging challenges will keep people motivated and optimistic about the future. The trick here is to be specific and detailed and use recent examples and avoid being vague or using platitudes.
While not everyone wants to be called up on stage to accept an award, it's a great practice to call out individuals for exceptionally good performance. Where you can be specific and explain the organizational impact and benefit. Recognition is one of the most powerful motivators at your disposal. Further, you not only reward the individual for their work, you inspire everyone else to rise to the challenge. And the best part is it doesn't cost you a dime.
One of your key responsibilities as CEO is to clarify strategy and define priorities. It's not enough to send out a presentation once a year. You need to beat the drum and reiterate the message frequently. Research shows that people need to hear things multiple times before they remember it. Don't assume that just because you mentioned something once in a company meeting that it's on top of people's minds; you need to keep it there.
Too many companies develop a set of core values, paint them on the wall, and then forget all about them. Core values only work if they are alive and actively talked about. Your weekly communication is a great place to mention people's actions which exemplify your values. Focus on the details and explain why their actions are a good example of each value.
If you know there are lingering questions or concerns in the office, be proactive and address them publicly. Rumors spread quickly and are difficult to correct once they infect the company. Address hearsay with facts and figures. If the concerns are legitimate, acknowledge them and explain what is being done to address the issue and when people can expect follow-up and resolution. Employees do not expect perfection, but they do expect transparency.
Communication doesn't just trickle down. Take the opportunity to ask for insights, feedback, information, and input on key company issues and initiatives. Often the people on the ground know more about what's going on than management does. Leverage people's detailed knowledge and perspective. One note of caution: If you ask for and receive feedback, make sure you reply and recognize the contribution and explain how you have applied or will apply it. There is no better way to squelch future feedback than for people to feel like it's going into a black hole.
Every CEO I've worked with who's implemented this habit of weekly communication has complained that it's one of the hard things they've done. When you're trying to close deals, set strategy, and raise the next round of capital, finding the time and energy to send out your weekly note is a significant chore. But these same CEOs also say it's one of the best things they do to keep in touch with everyone in the company and ensure that everyone is aligned around a clear message and direction.