In the second of a three part series, Nigel Purse outlines how to appeal to your CEO's emotional triggers to secure engagement on their agenda
It’s more than just the in thing. Employee engagement strategies have gathered a significant following in recent years, much to the improvement of business strategies everywhere. The working environment and its expectations on employees are ever-changing, and keeping employees motivated, performing well, and on the ball is essential. Yet, even though industry professionals such as David McLeod and Gallup have publicised the practical benefits of employee engagement, management’s interest is fading.
It is likely that you will not get much through to your CEO by talking a bunch of statistics at them – they need something to connect the issue to them emotionally. In spite of their primary aim to make money, and their acknowledgement that (in theory) it is worth the time and money, facts and figures are usually not enough to motivate them truly.
A simple understanding of a psychological concept - that of the fight or flight reflex – can help you to better relate ideas and suggestions to your CEO. When faced with stimulus that is likely to cause us negative effects, it is a natural reaction to fight or avoid it in some way, and vice versa. We are naturally attracted to positive and secure influences, and are likely to respond much better to open and trusting conversation than to managerial jargon. Being persuasive doesn’t come into play here – it’s all about initiating a comfortable line of dialogue about feelings.
Experts have identified three main emotional drivers that motivate the behaviour of those in management roles – autonomy, reputation and legacy. Finding ways to stimulate these drivers without triggering the ‘flight’ reaction will provide both parties with a much more level ground.
Research conducted into human behaviours have shown that autonomy is often a central focus to our motivation, and consequently, in our engagement and performance too. Many CEOs savour this autonomy in an effort to protect their authority and turf from external influences, who may not be there to voice the most pleasant news. By the time it works its way up this chain, employee engagement makes every level of person happy, from customer up to manager. Employees are given new hope by their CEO’s fresh approach and the positive feedback of customers; CEOs can then take pride in the happy and productive working environment they are head of; further than this, investors and shareholders can see that they made a wise investment, and continue a well-functioning business partnership.
Reputation is often a priority for CEOs and others in managerial positions. The ways in which they are viewed and valued by their peers, superiors and employees are central to their feelings of worth as a leader. Being known, publicly and privately, as a fair, decent and compassionate business leader who maintains high standards and employee satisfaction is desirable to many. Achieving the status of being respected by others is a key factor to the CEO mentality.
While current reputation is important, arguably more so is the legacy that CEOs will leave behind. Published reports from the last year or two detail CEOs’ average tenure times between 4.9 years and 9.7 years. During this relatively brief period, many CEOs feel it essential to establish a legacy, a praise attached only to those who made tangible and lasting changes for the better, who made their mark on the company. The introduction of employee engagement can be a major step in the direction of legendary status.
Giving careful consideration to these emotional drivers when relating to your CEO will prepare you well for their responses. Take care not to apply these changes too forcefully, but take steps to involve employee engagement far more in your business strategy, and the rewards will soon become evident.
About Nigel Purse
Nigel founded The Oxford Group in 1987 following a career in HR and business management with the Mars Corporation and Burmah Oil (now part of BP). The Oxford Group is a people-focused business driven by a passion for helping organisations get the best from their people, unleash hidden talent and successfully manage their business through times of change. Since 2015 The Oxford Group has been part of The City & Guilds Group, a global leader in skills development, which enables people and organisations develop their skills for personal and economic growth. For more information, visit www.oxford-group.com