Effective leadership Featured

8:00pm EDT October 25, 2006
Managing and obtaining value from today’s work force can be a challenge for any executive. As more seasoned workers continue to move to consulting and freelance positions, the younger employees who are entering the workplace behind them have more of a free agent mindset and don’t expect to stay with any one company or in any one position too long.

Add to this equation the increasing diversity of the work force and the number of remote workers, and suddenly a firm’s most valuable assets — its people — can be hard to retain and difficult to manage.

“The greatest challenge for a CEO today is getting ROI from employees while they are with the organization,” says Ken Goldberg, Ph.D. and associate professor of public administration for the School of Business and Management at National University.

Goldberg says that managing workers who build a portfolio of skills and move from assignment to assignment is especially difficult for CEOs of mid-sized or emerging companies.

Smart Business spoke with Goldberg about the tools that can help CEOs develop the skills and the competencies to succeed in obtaining an acceptable return from today’s worker.

How can CEOs obtain greater ROI from today’s highly mobile work force?
The way to do it is by raising your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) and getting the most out of workers while they are with the company. Start by having the knowledge of who you are as a leader and a person and a greater knowledge of where your organization is today. That will take you down the path to understanding the feelings of others — including your customers and your employees.

How does that knowledge enable a CEO to become a more effective leader?
It gives you a more rational approach to people’s problems and teaches you to be an empathetic listener. By understanding the problems that your employees are facing, you are better able to provide the best solution. For example, an employee may come to you and ask for a pay raise. As you attempt to understand his or her concerns, what you may actually uncover is that the employee is really looking for more recognition or responsibility. Then you are better able to help resolve the true issue.

What is the correlation between EQ and employee ROI?
When CEOs understand employee needs, they begin to build employee trust and that employee’s commitment to the organization, which increases employee engagement. When employees are engaged, they stay longer and they are more productive, which increases that employee’s ROI to the company.

Just the right words at the right time can sometimes mean that people will stay longer. With the end of lifetime commitments by employees, every day that they stay matters. This skill is not only helpful in managing internal company relationships but also external associations, such as building relationships with clients through a better understanding of their needs. And that increases client retention.

What are the other ways that CEOs can demonstrate their competency with EQ?
By being an active listener and by separating your emotions from the issues. CEOs should try looking at the issue from the other person’s perspective and use techniques such as repeating the other person’s concern. This will help you clarify the concern and demonstrate empathy as well as your ability to be an ethical leader.

How can I become a more ethical leader and transfer my values to my employees?
The best way to show that you are ethical is by using leadership transparency. You will not always be able to get everyone on board with your decisions, but by being open and honest about your reasons for your decisions you will be able to at least get people to see why you made the call. By sharing the reasons for your decisions and the data that you considered, the staff will start to see examples of your logic and reasoning.

These are living examples of your values that the staff can then apply to their own decisions so that they represent the ethical culture of the company’s leadership.

What types of training and coaching are available to CEOs?
The Center for Organizational Excellence has trained faculty available to act as mentors and coach practitioners in one on one sessions with CEOs. The tutoring is customized to the needs of the CEO and can be used to refine or build skills. In addition, National University offers both executive level and MBA courses geared to the needs of busy CEOs.

KEN GOLDBERG, Ph.D., is associate professor of public administration for the School of Business and Management at National University. Reach him at (858) 642-8478 or kgoldber@nu.edu.