From Below: Memo to the CEO


What CEOs need to know about employees who are on the front lines every day? The information they will never have from their close entourage.

You do not know me. I am one of your employees. A face you encounter may be once a year. I am one of those people that everyone considers honorable and discreet, with a family to feed, so yes I am not only concerned with doing my job well but above all with keeping it. And I’ve long recognized that my work is just a rounding error in your balance sheet.

It can’t be easy being a CEO these days. The press focuses on the “golden parachutes” and the luxurious parties, how every day the workers are condemned to clean up the mess. But I know it’s not that simple. You help build markets and communities, tear down walls and shorten distances. You make big decisions, the ones that make waves around the world, that change how we connect and work, and I’m grateful to be a part of that.

As CEO you see from 30,000 feet, everyone showing their best side. But I work at level zero, where the masks fall. I see how your messages are ignored and trampled on and the resulting damage. Down here, your words dissolve in a dust storm of dwindling resources, recurring reorganizations and shifting priorities. So many are distracted by the story, revolted by the simulations and overcome by fear. I know because they open up to me. It’s those feelings shared in confidence that you’ll never know from your inner circle of closest associates. And that’s why I’m writing today. I realize that it may seem presumptuous of me to give advice to a CEO. It is a level of responsibility that I will certainly never reach. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see what’s going on. Shakespeare wrote that “the coward dies a thousand deaths” so do corporations………. And their leaders.

And it’s not your advisors and senior executives around you who are witnessing these subtle changes. It’s the people like me, the loyalists who are on the front line every day. You have taught us important lessons by leading by example. But much of all this is lost today.

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