How the Best CEOs Keep Their Employees Engaged

“The real damper on employee engagement is the soggy, cold blanket of centralized authority. In most companies, power cascades downwards from the CEO. Not only are employees disenfranchised from most policy decisions, they lack even the power to rebel against egocentric and tyrannical supervisors.”

Gary Hamel, Gary Hamel Consulting


No CEO worth their salt would say their job is easy.  In fact, we’re pretty sure that if you polled a few CEOs you would learn that they work at least 60-80 hours a week and have started between 2-5 companies.  Statistically speaking, they overwhelmingly believe that a talented and engaged team is the biggest contributor to their company’s ability to innovate.  In fact, a recent study by Gallup showed there is an undeniable correlation between employee engagement and company success. (Companies in the 99th percentile of employee engagement had four times the success rate of those in the 1 percentile category.)

Yet, statistics show that nearly 70% of employees are disengaged at work.  This level of disengagement is costing an astounding $500 billion per year to the US economy.

So, let’s be practical.  Higher employee engagement means higher productivity, less costly employee turnover, greater innovation and a healthier bottom line.  Fortunately, there are plenty of executives and leaders that demonstrate the ideal traits to help bolster their team’s engagement.

They Ask A LOT of Questions

Effective leaders are learners and are committed to getting and staying relevant overall, so they ask a lot of questions.  But more importantly, they are not afraid of the answers.  Meaning, they are open to the good, the bad and the ugly – without animosity.  They recognize that hard questions that are critical to a company’s growth and enduring success.  But more importantly, they don’t ask for input for ceremony’s sake. They ask because they mean it and intend to act on it.  There’s no faster way to a disengaged team than seeking input and then ignoring it.

They Seek Alignment

Yes, they know the value of getting their teams on board with their strategy.  They recognize that people need to buy-in at all levels of a com-any strategy and execution plan, with a purpose to give meaning to their work.  Great CEOs will work together with stakeholders and extended teams on how to achieve their vision and then cascade the strategy to all levels of the organization. It’s done in a way where even the receptionist and the customer service representative understand and can explain how their role contributes to the company’s strategy and vision.

They Seek the Truth

Bridgewater founder and CEO Ray Dalio says, “My most important principle is that getting at the truth, whatever it may be, is essential for getting better. We get at truth through radical transparency and putting aside our ego barriers in order to explore our mistakes and personal weaknesses so that we can improve.”

So, how should leaders seek out the truth? Of course, we know a ThinkTank session can play a key role.  Why?  Because inherent in ThinkTank is the safety for participants to be themselves,  try things, have ideas and even make mistakes.  It’s part of an overall culture in which it is safe, and required, for people to speak their Truth.  This means owning what isn’t working,  getting to the source of why it isn’t working and taking action.