A Note From The Editor
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Most CEOs are failing in the eyes of their employees, according to Glassdoor ratings. Glassdoor’s internal data from December 2017 found that the average CEO approval rating was just 68 percent. Considering how popular the site’s reviews are with job-seekers, having a great CEO rating is essential to talent acquisition.
Related: 3 Reasons to Think Again Before Bashing Your Company on Glassdoor
While most leaders are working to earn better reviews, some CEOs have already figured things out. In fact, a few have managed to maintain 100 percent approval ratings on Glassdoor. For those looking to improve their own rating, it helps to look at what these leaders are doing right.
Gireesh Sonnad: king of transparency
Gireesh Sonnad is the CEO of New York-based Salesforce cloud alliance partner Silverline. He says the secret to his success as a leader is maintaining a core company value of trust and transparency.
“As a team, we try to be as open and honest as possible with our customers and each other, and that starts with me,” Sonnad told me via email.
He said he holds bi-weekly office hours, when employees can submit anonymous questions through the company’s intranet. He then sends his answers out to the entire company.
This sets an example for the whole team. Without it, Sonnad said, he wouldn’t have the trust of his employees or be able to maintain a strong relationship with them.
Advice for other CEOs: Sonnad learned the importance of transparency during a time of fast growth. He made a decision that wasn’t properly communicated to all employees and, as a result, the team wasn’t ready for the change.
Related: Want to Be a Great CEO? Start With the Man in the Mirror.
“We’re still growing at a fast pace and still have to make decisions quickly," he wrote. "But now, the executive team asks ourselves how people will react, and we make sure we have a full communication plan around every announcement.”
Always have the necessary communication channels in place. Every company is different, so it’s important that the method fit the team’s needs. Focus on what type of information employees need quick access to, and find a platform that provides that option.
Douglas Murray: steward of culture
As CEO of Santa Clara, Calif.-based data center company Big Switch Networks, Douglas Murray admits he wasn’t always a knowledgeable leader. But in an article on LinkedIn, he shared the best advice he's ever received: Culture starts at the top, and it’s the CEO's job to be the steward of that culture.
Murray carried that advice with him when he became CEO of Big Switch Networks. At the time, the company was in the middle of a massive pivot and morale was low. “I had to act fast, and I knew I had only one shot at getting it right,” Murray said in the article.
He started a program called “Just Lunch,” where he would meet with small groups of employees and discuss the company. The only rule was, everyone had to be truthful and participate. This helped him guide the company culture. Six months later, more than 50 percent of employees described the culture as “awesome.”
Advice for other CEOs: Murray credits his unofficial CEO coach, Mark Leslie, as one of the reasons he’s become a successful leader. In fact, Leslie, he said, was the one who taught him about a CEO’s role in the company culture.
Find a similar source of guidance and inspiration. Whether it’s a more experienced CEO or a leadership coach, he or she will provide knowledge many leaders don’t have time to learn on the job.
Jim Barnett: seeker of great talent
Some CEOs believe in the “it takes a village” mindset. Such is the case with Jim Barnett, CEO and co-founder of the Redwood City, Calif.-based people success platform Glint. Barnett humbly credits his success to his fellow leaders. With their help, he’s been able to create a people-driven work environment in which he can focus on building a great team and inspiring its members to succeed.
“Our goal is for everyone at Glint to love their job, and that desire fuels how we lead our company,” he said in an email. “I believe that helps us align our mission as a company with the aspirations of our people.”
By laying that foundation, Barnett is able to easily attract the best talent.
Advice for other CEOs: Barnett says one of the best things a leader can do is embrace feedback. He uses multiple sources like town hall sessions, one-on-ones and engagement pulse surveys.
“Embracing feedback has enabled me to make better decisions based on data, rather than my own internal assumptions and biases,” Barnett said. “If you can stay open and curious as a leader, you can focus on achieving your mission with the power of your team behind you.”
John McBeth: master listener
John McBeth, president and CEO of the Annapolis Junction, Md.-based intelligence analytics software company Next Century Corporation, believes it’s imperative for leaders to listen -- especially to millennials.
For example, in an article for the Washington Pos t, McBeth shared the story of a young employee who changed a day-to-day process of the company. Because the company is a government contractor, anyone wishing to see Next Century's work needed, and needs, a security clearance. This meant that when workers used to come into the office to collect trash, all employees had to shut off their computers and halt work for 30 minutes.
Eventually, the young man McBeth described questioned this procedure. He suggested that staffers simply take their own trash cans outside the office to be collected, to eliminate the loss of productivity.
“We implemented it within a week of hearing that,” McBeth said in the article. “And, I just thought to myself, 'Why didn’t I think of that?'”
Related: None of the 5 Ways to Become a Truly Great CEO Is Magic
Advice for other CEOs: McBeth acknowledged that all CEOs make more mistakes than they can count. But one of the biggest is hiring the wrong people. After falling into that trap multiple times, he decided to include others in decisions. Listening to others' perspectives and input, this CEO conceded, allows for better hiring choices.