Letter to a CEO

Demagogic, but motivating (isn’t it?) declaration of successful people: “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”.For those who didn’t recognize the accent (I myself am in the list) words of Steve Jobs, when he was CEO.

I stumbled on this (you should be logged in) discussion on LinkedIn (brief personal deviation: I do not like social network of any kind. I’m still and old fashion guy believing in the face to face networking, sorry). The discussion is about how to avoid employee quitting from a company.

In particular when it is a valued team member quitting, a chain of hard-to-solve situations takes place and even a single leaving causes a long list of troubles to the “management” and to other coworkers.

The other team members feel a work overload; the individual intellectual property of the resource is gone causing demotivation and frustration. C-levels would like to hire a replacement, but resumes are for unqualified candidates and they do not want to pay the resource too much, of course… Better to avoid, isn’t it?!

The discussion suggests some absolutely supportable, but in my opinion difficult to be applied, tips to help you keeping your team members on board (and keep them happy).

Here below some free reinterpretation of the main points (as usual in my humble, useless, personal and ungrammatical way) put in form of an open letter to a CEO.

Dear CEO,
may I ask you the following before decide if remain here (or to be hired here)? I hope you might consider these questions also as foods for thought:

  • is my everyday job what I expect? When I was hired (and now in the new organization) the job description was just a void text or it contained the description of the real work so that I, the candidate, can come here tomorrow to work with clear duties, tasks and responsibilities?
  • do you think is my salary adequate? Wait, this doesn’t mean I’m asking you to be covered of gold, but simply are you paying my tasks what they are worth? The easiest (and probably most common) scenario is that if we are somehow contributing to the organization, you should make sure that you are paying us fairly in return. Probably even more important, my darling CEO, what should I do to get to the “next level”? As salary but not only…
  • do you have any feedback for me? Please, please, please give me constructive and frequent feedback. I will make use of these feedback for dreaming about my career and after dreaming to work for it. The company will have a huge return from such a motivated guy (read: strong business and solid organization);
  • actions speak louder than words. We don’t need to hear about how great a team member is, we just need to see something, some changes, some actions translating tons of words in facts. We will belive much more in you and in the management next time;
  • are you, CEO, actively doing something to find (hidden, but not too hidden) opportunities for me and other team members to develop? These opportunities can be just assigning the lead of an important project or asking us to provide help to other departments in critical situations. Additional assignments can be very welcome if these are presented as tests, challenges. This helps also the organization to understand our value, skills and expertise;
  • give me a bit of freedom (read flexible work schedules and work for objectives); a oh-my-fuhrer approach will give you nothing if not people leaving and desert desks. Try a results-focused work environment, people must be measured with their results not with a clock… another thing for sure clear, but really that hard (please, do not say impossible) to be put in practice?

I know that these are words, only words and nothing will change, but let me use this very nice sentence: “Good leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”. People often leaving their jobs to get away from their boss (for challenges related to personality, respect, communication, support, performance feedback, lack of confidence, etc.). Dear CEO, let me see who you are working with, the people you chosen for helping you, so that I can make a clearer idea about the leader you are and the leader or follower destiny waiting for me.

Dear CEO, is it clear that enthusiastic and free-to-act team members will help drive business growth faster than anything else? If you tried and this didn’t happen, you just hired wrong people, I myself included.

Any other different approach is doomed…

WU (not a CEO)