CEOs and C-suite executives have a really tough job. We should know. We work with them every day. They have to keep their eyes focused on where they are going and ensure they don’t leave the rest of the organization behind.
That said, most C-suite executives spend the majority of their time with direct reports, board members and investors. In many ways, this is just the reality of the job. However, in other ways, this “isolated operating environment” can have devastating consequences on the business.
Especially when it comes to delivering a clear, compelling and consistent corporate story in the market.
Case in point: When we first engage with clients to help them deliver a unified message throughout the customer experience, there are always … at least … two different corporate stories being told across the organization.
The CEO’s version of the story and … everyone else’s version of that story.
Rarely do these totally align.
This disconnect is due to how most CEOs and leaders spend their time. But don’t take our word for it. All you have to do is look at the research recently published in Harvard Business Review.
Researchers Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria tracked 27 CEOs over a three-month period. They wanted to understand where they spent their time and what made certain leaders more effective than others.
OK – get ready for this …
The CEOs in the study only spent an average of 6 percent of their time with rank-and-file employees, and only 3 percent of their time was spent with customers.
The study also found that almost half (46 percent) of a CEO’s time with internal stakeholders is spent with direct reports. This ranged from a low of 32 percent of time to a high of 67 percent.
Maybe you are shocked by these numbers. Maybe you are not.
We were not surprised at all.
That’s why our corporate story discovery and development process is holistic — by design. This is the process we use to uncover the corporate story that will resonate with and engage the company’s employees and customers. And, while we absolutely value and internalize the CEO’s vision, strategy and story, we do not take it as the single source of the truth.
Our process also includes direct interaction with stakeholders up and down the organization. From the very top executives to middle management and frontline employees. We also ensure that every customer-facing part of the business participates in the process. Last but not least, our discovery process also includes direct communication with customers to ensure the “voice of the customer” remains at the heart of the story.
The truth is, CEOs and C-suite executives do need to be better about allocating time to frontline employees and engaging with customers. In doing so, they are better equipped to lead their company. They are more in tune with the customer. And they will have a better grasp of the story that truly resonates with their employees and customers alike.