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Who's In The Corner Office?

Do You Know Your CEO?


A CareerBuilder survey reveals that many people don't even know what their CEO looks like. While this may be a benefit to a reality show like Undercover Boss it is not good for the employees, even if they are individual contributors rather than managers. It is important to not only know who the CEO is, but what he or she looks like.

Should you run into the CEO you don't want to say or do anything that could be harmful to your career. On the other hand, you don't want to pass up a golden opportunity to demonstrate to the CEO your potential and your value to the company. If you don't know the person you're talking to is the CEO you may miss your big chance or you may blow it big time.

Meet The CEO

According to the survey:
  • 21 percent don’t know what their CEO looks like.
  • 40 percent have never met their CEO in person.
  • Almost half the workers can't name any of the C-level officers at their organization.
This is bad for the employees and it is bad for the company. The executives need to find a way to spend as much time with their employees as they do with their investors and other stakeholders. And the employees need to make an effort to learn more about their company and its leadership.

Step Outside The Corner Office

Most CEOs are very busy. They would probably like to spend more time with their employees, but they don't know where to find the time. First of all, they need to realize just how important it is for the leaders to speak directly with their employees to make sure the vision is communicated clearly. Secondly, they have to make time for these conversations.

There are many ways executives can spend time with their employees that don't take a lot of time, but yield great results. Here are just a few:

Learn About The Company

It is equally important for the employees to learn about the company they work for and the people who lead it. What are the company's products? Who are their competitors? Who are the company executives? Who is on the company's Board of Directors? Most of this information can be found on the company's web site. There is usually a section titled "About Us" or "Get to Know Us" or "Investor Relations". These have lists of the company executives and Board of Directors members. Usually they have short biographies of the executives that tell you a little about that person's career and often include a picture.

You can also search online to learn about your company. The techniques described in What's the Competition Doing? are equally effective for learning about your own company and its leaders.

Not Just The CEO

While it is important for you to know your company's CEO and other top executives *just in case* you run into them, it is more important for you to know the leaders at other levels in the organization.

Employees know their immediate supervisor and most know their department head. But don't stop there. It is important to your career success to know the heads of the other departments who are peers of your boss. Not only will this help you if you want to change to a different job in the company, but knowing other departments and what they do makes you more valuable to your own boss.

And take it one step further. Get to know the Directors or Vice Presidents who are the next step up the ladder of success. Watch them. Learn from how they dress, what they say, how they operate. These are things that can help you get ahead in your own career. Don't ignore office politics just because you don't like it. Take advantage of the benefits that networking can bring you.

Bottom Line

It is important for the CEOs to get to know their employees. It is equally important for the workers to be able to recognize their CEOs and other senior leadership. If you do have an opportunity to talk with your CEO in a program like we described above, or if you happen to "bump into" him or her, be prepared. Know what you want to learn about the company. Not only will you improve your chances of getting an answer to your question, you will also be able to show the CEO that you are thinking about the company and are someone to be watched for potential promotions or special assignments.

To learn the kinds of things your peers want to ask, read What Would You Ask Your CEO?

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