Dedicated CEOs want to be able to learn new things about their role and how they can become better at their jobs.
Many CEOs attend seminars, invest in workshops, and look up to other established business owners for mentorship. While all of these are great initiatives to take, there are also some tried and true tips out there that all CEOs should try out on their own.
Luckily, there are a number of things a CEO can do to improve their communication skills as well as other aspects of their jobs. We’re going to cover the top tips for CEOs to use to get the most out of their roles.
But first, let’s look at some core definitions in order to really establish who can benefit from these tips below.
What is a CEO?
A chief executive officer, also known as a CEO, is the highest-ranking executive in any given enterprise or company. A CEO’s primary responsibilities typically include making major corporate decisions, managing the business’ operations, managing the business resources of a company, acting as the main point of communication between the board of directors (also simply known as “the board”) and corporate operations. A CEO may also deal with shareholders and stakeholders directly, depending on the size or type of business the CEO works for. A CEO is typically elected by the board and its shareholders.
Essentially, the CEO is the public face of the business. Because of this, CEOs have a responsibility of being optimum communicators and demonstrate a positive representation of the company.
What Does a CEO Do?
A CEO’s role tends to vary from one business to another, significantly depending on the business’ size, company culture, and overall corporate structure. In massive enterprises or corporations, CEOs will typically deal only with very high-level decisions and strategies, as well as decisions that direct the business’ overall growth. In smaller businesses or startups, CEOs often are more involved and work directly with the daily functions of the business. CEOs are representatives as “the face” of the company, so they are responsible for setting the tone, vision, and even the internal culture of their businesses.
Because of their frequent interactions with the public, namely fans, brand ambassadors, and customers, sometimes the Chief Executive Officers of bigger corporations become essential celebrities. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Inc., for example, is a well-known name today and has a substantial social media presence online. Similarly, Bill Gates, the principal founder and former CEO of Microsoft Corporation has become a household name and has been featured in numerous documentaries and feature films.
This infamy can be both good and bad. If a CEO does not have ideal communication skills or a clean public image, it can impact the company that the CEO represents. Having a strategy for CEO communication and knowing when and how to properly leverage the CEO’s credibility and presence through social media is something all CEOs should be concerned with. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a ton of tips for navigating the world of CEO communication and CEO communications best practices.
1. Consider your office as a projection of yourself
The CEO’s office is the home base– where massive decisions for a company often happen, interviews may occur, and clients or business partners may meet. One way to communicate the quality of one’s business is to make that home base as welcoming and aesthetically pleasing as possible. Not the typical sterile, white, messy CEO office that many business executives tend to have.
The coolest CEO offices are open spaces with plenty of seating, which gives it the feel of being a social and well-used space. A CEO’s office should also include objects, furniture, decor, and imagery that inspires them. These items can be directly related to the company they work for.
2. Keep an eye on your posture
Posture can affect a lot about a person’s presentation. It can affect their voice, especially if they are leaning against something, hunching their shoulders, or slouching in a chair. As a CEO, you need to have a room-commanding voice that is capable of getting attention and inspiring listeners– be they stakeholders, company fans at a speech, or partners in a meeting.
One way to improve your posture is to bear your weight on the balls of your feet and to keep your feet close to shoulder-width apart. Strengthening one’s core can also improve posture.
3. Be aware of your pitch and tone when you speak, especially when giving speeches
Numerous studies have deduced that pitch has been directly linked to business success– something that may seem bizarre to many CEOs. However, the command of one’s voice as the representative of a business can reflect how “powerful” that company actually is. Human beings love to categorize things visually, and something as large and conceptual as an enterprise is difficult to categorize. Putting a face and a voice to a company makes it easier to categorize it as powerful or weak. This is why a CEO’s voice needs to have the pitch and tone of what we consider a “powerful” voice.
Male CEOs that have low-pitched voices tend to have more success. Though researchers are currently still exploring the connection between voices and positive business image, pitch and tone have a clear effect on verbal communication on the part of CEOs.
4. Consider starting a CEO blog
Blogs can be an authentic channel for communication, so it’s worth considering starting up a blog as a CEO. Blogs can provide a somewhat more personal look into what life is like running a business, as well as “behind the scenes” look into what goes on at the business itself.
A blog can also promote brand loyalty by giving dedicated customers something to look forward to on a regular basis. A blog can provide customers with a compelling reason to engage with your brand after you’ve guided them through your blog posts.
Keep in mind that it would be wise to regularly update this blog so that brand ambassadors and fans will know when to check-in.
5. Always show off your personality
It’s your job as a CEO to engage your listeners and get them excited about your company. However, people are all different and have different interests and preferences, which can make connecting with them as a CEO a challenge.
When it comes down to it, people don’t want a rehearsed, cookie-cutter scripted speech. They want you to cater to them and their personalities, but they also want to experience someone who is real. Extend yourself, along with your authentic personality, and inject those aspects of yourself into your communication style in videos, blogs, social media posts, or interviews to connect with your audience better.
Authenticity is often overlooked by CEOs, and it certainly makes sense why. Being a CEO involves a significant amount of work and it may be exhausting or time-consuming to essentially perform for one’s customer base. However, it’s vital for CEOs to project a positive image of themselves as people as well as the avatar of the company. Being honest about who you are and letting your authentic self shine through is a great way to communicate with more authenticity to your audience.
6. Practice your communication skills, even if you think you’re a communication pro
Communication can be learned, but it is a skill. Skills can only improve if one practices regularly and takes it very seriously. If you’re a CEO that isn’t exactly perfect at verbal communication, there are a number of techniques to build your ability to effectively communicate up:
- Practice active listening and always take the time to listen first and speak later.
- Open up your body language to be more confident, comfortable, and secure.
- Practice storytelling to improve your speeches. You want to be able to personally connect with the audience.
- Be genuinely kind and don’t be afraid to put yourself on different levels.
- Always accept feedback and even go out of your way to solicit feedback from your employees.
- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Nobody is captivated by someone who is a robot– a good CEO will not be afraid to be real and honest with their audience.
- Learn how to adapt to different styles of communication for different audiences. For example, learn about the cultural faux pas about communicating with Japanese businesspeople before attending a meeting with them, rather than sticking to what you’re used to with American businesspeople.
Even if you think you’re great at communicating with others, work on maintaining that ability through practice.
Remember that communication methods should not be stagnant– they’re always growing and the way people communicate in any given culture is constantly changing.
7. Offer prompts for communication, rather than questions
Turning declarative prompts into actual questions is a surefire way to miscommunicate. It is really critical to be as direct as possible when communicating with your audience.
For example: A typical CEO or boss may say “Can you get the report to me soon? It’s really important and I’m going to need is as soon as possible.” This comes off as a little aggressive and more of a command than an opener for a conversation. It’s also fairly open-ended without a deadline to help your employees out. Instead, try saying “Could you please get that report to me? I’d prefer it at three o’clock on Wednesday.”
CEOs should always use a steady and powerful tone, but they should also issue specific prompts instead of vague questions or aggressive commands.
8. Pace your speeches and don’t rush through them
People listen significantly slower than they think, so there is no need to speed through a speech. In fact, people listen at a rate of up to 250 words per minute and think at a rate of up to 3,000 words per minute– that’s a big difference.
Rushing through your speech only leads to jumbled words, slurred speech, and skipped points, but it can also make it difficult for your listeners to actually internalize and memorize what you’ve said. That is far from the goal of a speech on behalf of your company– so keep things slow, paced, and easy to understand.
9. …but also eventually get to the point
The short-term memory of human beings processes words, but short-term memory retains about seven sections of information at any given time. Getting to your point in a timely manner ensures that more people listening will retain the information you’re putting out. Flesh out your thoughts as quickly and clearly as possible, just not at the expense of your overall point. Being able to get your point across quickly while also pacing your speech is a difficult balance to master. Just continue to practice and also be open to editing your speech script multiple times for optimum authenticity.
10. Don’t be excessively casual
The professional-casual balance can be a delicate one. Lacking a casual edge can make you seem robotic and not interesting to your company’s fanbase. However, being too casual and lacking a professional edge can totally destroy your authority.
Maintaining a powerful tone is very important in communicating as a CEO, but it can be overbearing and intimidating if done in excess. If your tone is too casual and passive, this can weaken your authenticity, sincerity, and communication ability. CEOs need to engage with their employees with the tone of someone who is in charge, but also as someone who is part of the team.
11. Encourage feedback from your employees and colleagues
Allow time for employees to share their opinions with you, maintain approachability, and ultimately reward them for their insights. If you give people a platform to share, they may be more receptive to your own message. If you reward decent feedback, employees may interact and partake in conversations more often and improve the communication balance between the company and the CEO.
12. Get people involved
We all interpret things in different ways, which is why it can be hard for people to clearly remember information and interpret information in the intended way. CEOs should get their company staff involved first and foremost in order to drive home their message. It may also be a good idea for meetings to be more interactive through the use of powerpoint presentations or demos for a more hands-on experience.
There are many different strategies for CEO communication. We’ve narrowed it down to 12, but there’s more than that. Connect with us at VP Legacies and learn more about corporate communication strategies and how to improve employee and customer retention.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Corporate Communication Strategy