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Media Article of 19 January 2020 

Why CEOs Should Accept Help

Top executives are increasingly prone to emotional outbursts: acute crises, market volatility, and a rapid-fire flow of information increase their stress level immensely, Brigitte Kaps writes for finews.first.

The demands on CEOs are getting bigger all the time. Not only do they need to have expert knowledge and a vision for the company but also, increasingly, a huge amount of soft skills. The CEO's communication skills, of which listening is an important component, are key to a positive positioning of a brand and business. The presence in social media has also become relevant for a company.

finews.first

 

Why CEOs

Top executives are increasingly prone to emotional outbursts: acute crises, market volatility, and a rapid-fire flow of information increase their stress level immensely, Brigitte Kaps writes for finews.first.

The demands on CEOs are getting bigger all the time. Not only do they need to have expert knowledge and a vision for the company but also, increasingly, a huge amount of soft skills. The CEO's communication skills, of which listening is an important component, are key to a positive positioning of a brand and business. The presence in social media has also become relevant for a company.

A communication strategy tailor-made for the target group is necessary if the CEO is to cut a good figure in public. But the best strategy comes to nothing if it isn’t implemented successfully by the boss. It is all the more alarming that CEOs often aren't properly prepared for the task and left alone to deal with it.

«A top manager must have his emotions under control at all times, even, or rather precisely, in stressful moments»

After all, CEOs are the voice and public face of a company. They never act on their own behalf, but always in the name of the organization. And yet they are expected to behave authentically at all times and to act transparently. The two big Swiss banks have demonstrated last year that even leading top managers don’t always succeed in this balancing act.

The events may already have been analyzed in great detail, but it needs to be emphasized once again: a top manager must have his emotions under control at all times, even – or rather precisely – in stressful moments. If you happen to come across a disagreeable PR-person at Restaurant Kronenhalle in Zurich, you must meet him with a smile on your face – even if deep down you are seething with anger. Uncontrolled behavior made headlines across the globe. To the detriment of the manager and the bank.

«Being evasive or not to respond is no longer an option»

There are reasons for why such emotional outbursts happen ever more often: the fast pace of information, short-term crises, and volatility of markets increase the level of stress immensely for CEOs. And still, they often are left to their own devices in coping with their many tasks. It is no option for many to concede weakness – be it vis-à-vis the board, management, staff or even the general public.

CEOs are human beings and not algorithms that can be programmed to come up with the right reaction to any conceivable crisis scenario. It is possible however to prepare them specifically for each scenario laden with emotion – provided they have an appropriate willingness to communicate and a certain degree of emotional intelligence.

CEOs are under greater pressure than ever with respect to communication. This is due to the Internet. The increasing digitalization and spread of chat-channels and platforms enable stakeholders to be more active. They demand an active dialog –, especially on social media. Being evasive or not to respond at all is no longer an option in 2020.

«Digital pioneers show how it is done»

Employees in their majority also wish to have a CEO who is an example of issues such as digitization and open communication. This does not entail the spreading of social media marketing campaigns or even media releases. His job merely is to convince on issues involving thought-leadership and to incorporate the vision of a firm.

Even though the CEO is expected to communicate on social media, not even half of CEOs of the S&P 500 and FTSE 350 are active on social media. Digital pioneers such as Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines), Adea Friedman (Nasdaq) or Dan Schulman (Paypal) show how it is done. Not only do they interact with their followers but they also conduct a conversation with real added value. At Tesla, you sometimes get the impression that corporate communication isn't needed: Elon Musk does it mainly himself – via Twitter.

Compared with that, Swiss top managers are social-media refuseniks. Only every fourth CEO of companies on the SMI is active on social media. Peter Voser (ABB) and Vas Narasimhan (Novartis) deserve applause. The latter in particular is active on Twitter – and exactly because of that he occasionally gets branded a self-stager. Even if he only does what a CEO should do nowadays: lending his company a face, also on social media.

«Every activity can affect the fortunes of a company» 

It is obvious that communication isn't getting any easier with the presence on social media, but more complex instead. If every tweet or post potentially affects the business of a company, precision and authority are a must.

One has to get accustomed to the fact that each and every activity can affect the fortunes of a company – for the better or worse. Dealing with the new communication demands isn’t easy for all – but almost everybody can learn to deal with them. To be prepared for unknown crisis scenarios requires a frequent and entrusted sparring partner. Someone with whom you can talk through the possible scenarios. To help the CEO react swiftly, authoritatively, and at the same time authentically and human in case of emergency.

 

Brigitte Kaps is the founder and CEO of Executive PR. She holds a Master of Advanced Studies in Business Communications (HWZ, MAZ & LSE) and a degree in communications science from the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. She has almost 20 years of international experience in management positions with leading foreign banks (ABN Amro, GE, RBS). Before becoming self-employed in 2015, she was responsible for corporate communications at Cembra Money Bank (formerly GE Money Bank) in her capacity as a member of the Executive Board. 

 

 

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