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Jun 15, 2016 by Pavel Aramyan in PM Best Practices & News

The list of interpersonal skills for CEOs that can highly influence your company culture

Do you want to be an OK employer or a great employer?

Known as “soft skills” (many are born with them rather than learned) interpersonal skills are at the foundation of establishing a healthy company culture. While company culture is still rather an abstract concept, it undoubtedly plays a vital role in whether your employees are going to be happy and excited every morning when they head to the office. At the very least, your staff should be satisfied with their positions, but when your company’s culture reflects a workplace of pleasure and reward, the staff reflects the same in their work performance.

Want your employees to start giving you high-fives whenever they see you walking down the hall? A standing ovation when you open your office doors? A cake with “Best CEO ever!” every Friday? Follow this list of 6 interpersonal skills to make certain that you are maintaining a positive and successful work environment.

1. The Spoken Word

The spoken word begins as soon as an employee sits down for their first interview. As a CEO you, of course, want the ship to sail smoothly, while generating return in the process. How you speak to your employees has a profound impact on how they perceive you and the company as a whole.

Clarity is especially important. By thinking deliberately before you speak, you will communicate to your staff that you are thoughtful and intelligent. If you rush your words or just say the first thing that comes to mind you will be perceived as shabby and disorganized, attributes that no employee wants to see in their boss. Remember: you are the captain of a ship, and your mates are supposed to respect you. Using clear and direct speech when speaking with your staff gives them the respect needed for your authority.

On the matter of the spoken word, give your employees intermittent and relevant compliments. If an employee walks in wearing a nice necktie, or has a sharp new haircut, tell them. Compliments boost confidence, which in turn will aid their work performance and overall image of your business.

Using casual language is fine for establishing a relaxed office atmosphere (if that is appropriate for your office) but refrain some using slang, unless you happen to be the CEO of a rap magazine.

2. The Unspoken Word

A close second interpersonal skill to your speech is your body language and conduct in the office. Remember who is in charge: you. Do you want to be seen as a Seth Rogen or a Jon Hamm (minus the drinking and philandering)? Sure, Seth would be fun to hang out with, but you wouldn’t perceive him as a boss.

Body language is known as such because it is indeed a form of language. 55% of the  impression we leave on others comes from body language. What do you want your employees to perceive you as? As mentioned before you need to appear confident and in control. You are the CEO, afterall.

The way you dress, posture yourself and gesture has a profound effect on your office culture, because a good employee tries to emulate their boss. However, the office culture that you dictate should be genuine, not forced. If you are the CEO of a software development start-up, it would be perfectly fine to forego a tie and have your shirt sleeves rolled up. But ask yourself, wouldn’t that seem strange for a CEO of an investment bank? The answer is obvious.

Further, and this cannot be stressed enough: eye contact. No matter how perfect the diction of your speech is, nobody is going to trust a word you say if you avoid eye contact.

If you have problems with making eye contact use this trick: simply stare between their eyes. The difference is unnoticeable and eventually you will become comfortable with establishing sincere eye contact with your employees. When in conversation with your employees you should have maintain direct eye contact at least 30-60% of the time spent.

Your gestures should demonstrate that you are in control, even when upset. You should avoid tension in the office as if it’s cancerous, which metaphorically it is. For example, if you need to reprimand an employee, do not slam your fist on the desk. Rather, you should firmly place your palm on the table and let it remain.

The message remains that you are upset, but you are also in control of yourself. Your employee will see that they’ve performed below standards but they are not going to the bar after work and tell their mates about their “crazy boss”.

3. Hearing The Words

Listening is grossly underrated as a managerial interpersonal skill. More than 35 studies indicate that only 2% of professionals consider improving their listening skills. Often, we neglect how important it is to listen without speaking back, and to also hear the message your employee is trying to communicate. Again, while you listen to an employee maintain solid eye contact.

Imagine you were a restaurant manager and are telling your CEO about a great idea you have for renovations. He kept looking at his watch saying “Yeah, mhm,” and then started cleaning his glasses. Would you respect that man? He clearly does not give a damn about what you were saying. How much longer would you work for him?

As you can see in this graph courtesy of authenticjourneys.info, listening comprises over a fifth of our communication:

interpersonal communication skills

When your employees come to talk to you, never interrupt them, even if you already know what they are going to say next. It makes you seem impatient and childish, traits no CEO should possess. The reason why you are the CEO and have employees beneath you is that each employee is specialized in an area that you likely are not.

Often your staff may have some valuable concepts that can boost your business, but if they do not feel that you will at least hear them out properly, then it becomes a loss for the entire company. As a CEO, you want a company culture where employees feel free to share their ideas with upper management, because they know they will be heard. Even if you were to turn down their idea, it’s still important to let them speak.

4. Doing The Words

Accountability has a trickle-down effect on your company culture. As a CEO you are ultimately responsible for your entire organization. Remember that your company culture starts at the top with you, and your staff will emulate your interpersonal communication. Your company culture will dictate how well and when employees will complete their tasks. In a company where responsibility and accountability are adhered to by their CEO, the employees follow suit. In an opposite scenario, employees generally follow each other out the front door.

Accountability is necessary to be even across all levels of your company. Without it, you are left with a heaping pile of chaos. A CEO needs to hold their managers accountable for their departments. They delegate the responsibilities to your workforce, and you need them to hold their teams accountable for quality work.

The manner in which you do this requires nuance and consistency, because problems do happen as much as we wish they did not. But, there is a helpful way and a harmful way to inform an employee that they need to correct their work.

By incorporating the three previous skills, the most effective strategy for holding staff accountable is to make sure you do not lose your cool or use too much negative language. The best managers encourage staff to do better instead of saying that the employee failed.

Also, if you have incorporated the previous three steps you will have a team that feels free to approach you with problems. If you have successfully established a comfortable company culture your staff will have no problem coming to you with questions or problems. The same goes for their teams.

However, you need to hold your managers accountable to delegate individual responsibilities directly and coherently to the workforce. For example, if a writer wrote a bad article for your newspaper company, what should you do? You should hold the manager accountable for why someone on their staff wrote about new bread brands when the article was for a cat show, and the manager should hold the writer accountable to do the proper assignment.

5. Manners Matter

Manners in the workplace have a profound effect on staff. Even the psychological field has written in professional journals about the impact good (or bad) manners have on the perception of another person. As a CEO you lead the pack and have the primary influence on your company culture. Think of yourself as a parent and the company is your baby. 80% of Americans believe that when a child has bad manners it stems directly from the manners of the parents. So, it all has to start with you.

It should be obvious that your company wants to retain its work talent. Shockingly, 75% of professionals leave their positions due to rudeness and/or bullying at the workplace.

Going back to the skill of holding your employees accountable, the CEO must demonstrate politeness and professionalism to his management team, who in turn will follow suit in their inter-office social behavior.

Incorporating manners into your workplace also leaves quite a positive impression on your customers and clients. For example, if you have a sales employee and they are rude to a customer, your company’s reputation is now at stake. To paraphrase the old saying: if you make one person happy you have made one person happy, but if you make one person upset you have upset them and three of their friends.

Do not undervalue the results that good manners will have on your company culture.

6. The Power Of Fun

Having fun at work is incredibly valuable for any company culture. 56% of middle-aged professionals believe that having fun at their job is important, and an enormous 88% of Millenials, who are soon becoming the new workforce, believe that it is important to have fun at work. But it goes deeper than simply recruiting employees.

Workers that are able to have fun at their jobs experience less sick days, are willing to work longer hours and are more creative. Countless professionals are tired of their “old boring boss” so encourage your staff to participate in activities that are amusing, and get involved with them. An example would be the cliche “Casual Friday” and join in with the gang.

Workers that can relate to and have fun with their boss are less likely to look for other jobs. Knowing that 78% of business leaders believe employee retention is urgent, you should pay attention to this as well.

What Does Your Company Culture Say About You?

Well, it says everything about you as a CEO. As the chief officer you are responsible for the welfare of each and every person in your employ. A comfortable, efficient, highly organized company attracts motivated and talented staff. Your manner of speaking, visual appearance, interaction with employees, and methods for responsibility and accountability all influence your company’s culture in their own ways.

By developing interpersonal skills, you will become a CEO that is not just a boss, but a real person. Authenticity is paramount. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, is known for using his self-deprecating sense of humor to connect with his staff. For another stellar example of how interpersonal skills yield an attractive company culture, take a look at Marc Benioff’s success with Salesforce. Benioff is a social activist, not just in his personal life, but he also incorporates his activism into the corporate framework of Salesforce, and like-minded talent became attracted to join Salesforce, and grow it into the success story that it is today.

There’s no sense in putting a game table in the break room if employees do not feel comfortable with their superiors, or have little faith in who is behind the wheel. If you incorporate these 6 interpersonal skills, you will be held in high-esteem by your employees and they will feel dedicated to your company.

pavel-aramyan
Pavel Aramyan

Pavel is a doctor who happens to have an MBA degree and a strong passion for writing. "I am a do-it-all kind of person: When I am not writing, I am busy curing people, when I am not curing people, I tend to kill WCG competitions. Life is fun, and full of wonders: Do what you enjoy most, even if it’s everything at once."

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