3 Questions Great CEOs Ask Frontline Associates


As a corner office executive, one of the best things you can do is get out of your big, fancy office and spend time with the people who actually “do the work!” Quite often as a leader, your calendar is filled with internal meetings and conference calls. Much of the information you receive is filtered, so rarely are you hearing the full truth. And, quite possibly your organization is not benefitting from innovative ideas because some companies operate under the mantra, “if it wasn’t created by headquarters, its no good.”

In order to get the most out of spending time with frontline associates I fid that great leaders and CEOS ask three important questions:

1. What are we making you do that adds little to no value to the business?

Most leaders would be amazed at the number of requests, reports and activities associates are asked to do, that provide little to no value to the organization, and in fact, wastes the associates time.  One day as President of a large grocery chain, I spent the day with a Store Director. I was bewildered at the amount of reports that she was being asked to complete. After some quick research I learned that the information collected from her and others was not even being used. It was an example of headquarters collecting data, for sake of collecting it and adding no real value. Needless to say, these useless reports were no longer required, freeing up precious time for the Store Director to run the business.

2. What Tools, Products or Information would allow you to “DO MORE”, “SELL MORE” or provide “BETTER SERVICE?”

Another misnomer is the belief that headquarters always knows what’s best for the field. While this may be partially true, I have found that some of the best value creation ideas come from those associates closest to the customer, the production line, and the community. Maybe it’s the realization that customers are requesting more Gluten-free products that we don’t offer? Perhaps it’s hearing from our customers that our website is too difficult to navigate, thus making online ordering a burden. Whatever the case, great leaders drive innovation and value by listening to the voices of those who have to implement and execute the strategy. Not just listening to those who create the strategy.

3. What’s happening in the business that you think I need to be aware of?

In many companies market intelligence is gathered primarily, by the headquarters Marketing team. They run analytics, do test marketing, check consumer insights and review Neilson data. While are of these are necessary and vital, nothing takes the place of employee engagement. By listening to the concerns, insights and suggestions from field associates, the CEO gets first hand, unfiltered information. This information, when integrated with market analytics, can provide the “intelligence” required to not only make good decisions, but help to create a more complete picture of reality.

CEOs and leaders who aspire to be great, need to take regularly scheduled visits to spend time with those who associates who really are “the company”, those men and women who actually make things happen, and do the work!

businessKeith Wyche