It shatters every cliché and hardwired notion about what it means to be a boss.
Forget the image of a chief executive working on a complex matrix of management tools; or worse, roasting employees for poor performance and demanding better results.
Consensus has emerged among global business leaders at the recent World Business Forum in Sydney on what makes for successful and effective modern CEO.
The image is of a humble, people-savvy motivator who uses positive culture change to achieve an organisation’s transformative goals and growth objectives.
Melbourne Business School’s Professor Geoff Martin says CEO attitudes are changing as business leaders become more focused on the power of people skills.
“The thing that strikes me about the CEOs I interviewed at the World Business Forum in Sydney is what good listeners they are – they drip humility,” Professor Martin says. “We’re starting to see a whole new skillset we want in a CEO. You want someone with the emotional intelligence to stop, with all of your top management team, and say, ‘What do I need to do to bring employees along for the ride?’”
Professor Martin explains it’s a long way from the post-World War II days when CEOs and business managers limited their interaction with staff. It’s also different to the complex management consulting tools.
Learn from your customers
What matters is a human touch that extends throughout the organisation.
Author and founding partner of consultancy Peppers & Rogers Group, Don Peppers, who also graced the stage at the forum, said a good example was how a positive, people-centric culture could impact on customer service.
When you look at companies that are perennially successful, it’s very hard to find a common denominator – except all have extremely strong corporate cultures.
He explained that with more automation and digital service channels, customers were less likely to pick up the phone to call for help. “On the other hand, the more you successfully automate, the more important those call-ins are going to be,” he said. “Now, when the customer calls in, they’re going to be talking about something very important to them, something difficult. They’re going to require more engagement and empathy.”
Another example was Telstra, he said.
“Look at the cultural transformation of Telstra under [CEO] David Thodey, where Telstra became one of the world’s largest users of Yammer,” Peppers said. “Linking employees together in order to bring out their humanity and unleash their humanity – you don’t have to demand employees like customers, good employees want that to happen – you have to use technology to get out of employees’ way.”
This trend of positive corporate cultures, led by humble CEOs is a global trend.
“When you look at companies that are perennially successful, it’s very hard to find a common denominator – except all have extremely strong corporate cultures,” Peppers said.