Our brain is an amazing organ. It remembers stuff from a long time ago. I can still quote the 1970’s McDonald’s commercial tune about Big Macs. “Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun!” Such useless knowledge like this is stuck inside my head. I even remember the taste of a Big Mac although I have not tasted one in years. Have you ever had a “Big Mac Attack?” I can still remember the taste of that colossal double-decker hamburger filled with special sauce and a gazillion calories.
The point I’m trying to make here is that stuff – words, tastes, smells, attitudes, reactions, opinions, even silly songs – get stuck inside our heads. And this is an important thing to know when you are a CEO or executive of a company. Your people are going to bring with them pre-programmed notions about leaders, culture, policies, people issues, human resource departments, acceptable office behavior, rules of engagement, attitudes, etc. Some of it is probably good. But I guarantee some of it will be bad – very bad. You cannot control how Company A treated their people and the impression it left on that new recruit that just walked in the door on Monday. But as the CEO, you can begin to mold positive messages to replace those negative ones by her previous employer.
As a leader, your job will be to begin replacing all those negative messages with positive ones. Although you are not a hypnotist, it’s kind of like helping someone stop the unhealthy habit of smoking or overeating by replacing negative messages with positive ones. That is why communication is such a critical component of the CEOs position.
Finding the right leaders, creating the right culture and communicating positive messages to combat those nasty pre-programmed ones inside the heads of your people are your most important jobs as the CEO.
Question: What negative, pre-programmed messages about work are inside your head?
Great post Kevin. I especially like the idea of being able to shift the trajectory of the company culture at any time through new messages. All it takes is a commitment from the top down and follow through. Many leaders miss a golden opportunity to create amazing, positive workplaces because they don’t focus on messages that build people up and encourage them to grow and succeed. One negative message I’ve noticed in many workplaces is the notion that you can’t praise employees because they’ll go soft. Imagine the power of getting rid of that one message.