Building Culture: CEOs Who Know Every Employee -- and Every Partner

How do employees really feel about your company? And how does your CEO really feel about his or her employees? Surveys, annual reviews and other "formal" processes can help you answer those questions. But sometimes the answers come from far simpler interactions. And those interactions can shape your corporate culture for years to come. Let me give you a few examples.

When I got my start as a tech journalist -- at CMP Media's InformationWeek in 1992 -- I frequently bumped into CEO Michael Leeds in the elevator. I was a cub reporter on a weekly magazine. Leeds and his family -- and some talented executive leaders -- were busy building CMP into a company that would ultimately be worth more than $920 million by 1999. Yet Leeds somehow learned and remembered my name. Each June or July I attended a so-called CMP Summer Conference -- where every employee was on-hand to learn about the company's culture, priorities, long-term vision and recent accomplishments.

Somewhere along the way, I think I also attended a "meet the CEO" lunch or breakfast -- a once-monthly meeting where Leeds would  talk shop (and talk family) with staff members.

Frankly, I forgot about some of those early career lessons until earlier this week -- when I heard ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini was hosting a monthly luncheon for new employees. Bellini gets to know each employee by name, and I'm sure he fills them in on the company's history and culture.

I hear similar examples of culture building -- and culture reinforcement -- across the managed services industry. But I also see instances where culture completely breaks down. Examples include:

  • Managers who hide behind email instead of opening their doors and opening discussions.
  • Executives who bark orders without understanding that each employee responds to different types of motivations.
Former NFL Coach Bill Parcells was famous for treating each athlete differently, based on their personalities and talents. On the one hand, I realize businesses have to have baseline rules and responsibilities that apply to all employees. But if executives took more time to actually "learn" about their employees, they'd have an easier time keeping folks engaged and motivated.

What makes your employee's tick? Go find the answers over lunch or coffee.
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