Driven by the very nature of businesses, CEOs are expected to display corporate behavior. Such behaviors are reflected in certain attributes of professionalism, chasing business targets, conducting frequent business meetings/reviews, attending corporate parties and events, activities on social media and other media platforms, verbal and written communications to staff and customers, apart from their personal attires, life styles and competencies.
All this now need a rethink and review, thanks to the ongoing psychological and sociological impact of the pandemic. The glitz, glare, ostentation and the high octane-high profile world of business will now need infusion of heavy dose of “social” elements to sustain, thrive and build long term trust among stakeholders. This behavior entails orientation towards other selves, encompassing of other people, as displayed through various acts, actions or practices.
Clearly, social behavior of top honchos in industry and businesses will now matter more. Their speeches, interactions, gestures, tones, facial expressions are all important signals and cues. It will matter more the way they converse, they listen, they spend time, they share, they reach out, and, last but not the least, they reassure. Being high on Social Quotient is not a choice any more.
Here are some ways CEOs can genuinely show a healthy and positive social behavior:
Board level actions: The agenda figuring ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) should be prioritized and fast tracked. Here the actions, measures and initiatives of CEOs would matter. Routine, bureaucratic, non-essential agenda items should wait or best be avoided. Purposeful actions and agenda deliberated and decided at board level would speak a lot on the social intent of corporate leaders.
Cultivating healthy social habits: The companies must show social dimensions at grass root or operational level. The habits exhibited by frontline staffs reveal the culture and ethos at macro level. If, for instance, phones are not picked, emails are not responded, customers are not attended politely, as evidenced as a pattern, then one can make out the kind of work culture the company has. CEOs must check such habits periodically through periodic mystery shopping.
Engaging with employees: The employees are the most immediate and valuable human resource the CEOs interact with on a daily basis. As the ongoing pandemic has shown, large many corporate leaders are going extra miles caring for the physical and mental well-being of their employees. The flexibility in work schedules, changes in work stations, approaches towards providing work-life balances etc. are all efforts that humanize HRM. By being open, communicative, feedback-friendly, and diversity and inclusive-oriented, CEOs can create a comforting atmosphere for their employees.
Connect with Customers: Customers drive business. This is a time for businesses to step into the shoes of their customers. By responding to concerns, following up on feedbacks, keeping communication non-transactional, video-chatting etc. CEOs can connect and empathize with their customers. Innovating customer-friendly product lines, minding their conveniences, hand-holding them in distress are some ways social behavior of corporate leaders get manifested. Such solidarity should extend to their suppliers and creditors too.
Corporate Events: In normal times, the active presence or participation of CEOs in corporate parties or events have been common and do not raise eyebrows. While these may continue to be part of corporate life, post-pandemic, CEOs may need to look at these activities with social lens. At a time when businesses are crippled and livelihoods are at stake, any bashful, pompous, wasteful functions would be perceived negatively. On the other hand, associating with social groups, social events, NGOs in social sectors can lend a humane social face to CEOs.
Engagements in Media: CEOs are usually active on Social media. They also often get interviewed on electronic and print media. This visibility means all their actions and behaviors are noticed closely by the stakeholders and society at large. As the opinions, tweets, forwards by CEOs mirror their sense and sensibilities, intellect and gravitas and their compassionate and ethical grounding, they would need to handle the media engagements with care-responsibly and thoughtfully.
Acts of philanthropy: During the current crisis, many corporate houses and businesses are going beyond mandated corporate social responsibility and are engaged in philanthropic acts to serve humanity. Realizing that kindness and empathy are both soft and business skills now, many corporate leaders are launching various welfare schemes and helping vax programs, and these find wide coverage in media as well. A true spirit of charity shown during hard times strongly depict social behavior of CEOs.
With high social quotient, demonstrated particularly during difficult times, CEOs will win laurels for not only themselves but also the businesses they lead.
Written by Ram Krishna Sinha.
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