The Social and Empathetic CEO

Note from the editor: A few months ago on this blog we reflected on why it’s important in businesses for the CEO to be the first in adopting a social attitude, in order to be followed by the rest of the team. Today we bring you this article that Marta published before in her blog to study in depth this idea.

A few days ago I introduced standing trends for this 2014 year.  One of the most important is going to be the socialization of CEOs, understood as direct intervention in social networks, contributing ideas, projects and concepts, giving opinions about relevant topics for business, the sector and/or of general interest, thus answering their audiences’ comments.   

This made me reflect on the the importance of empathetic listening so that this socialization positively reverberates on the CEO’s reputation and his/her organization. As well as the effectiveness of his/her leadership and the message he/she wants to broadcast.

As I point out in my book, both within and outside of social networks, CEOs have to begin to really worry about what other people say, what opinions they have and what they are interested in and worried about. In this sense, empathetic listening requires comprehension of the situation and the perspectives of the people involved in a conversation. 

Empathetic listening is related to acting in a certain way. In the first place, being capable to recognize all of the verbal and non-verbal signals of people who participate in a conversation. It implies paying attention to what others are not directly saying, thus understanding and recognizing their feelings.

In a “social” context, given that many of these signals are lost since it is impossible to receive information through all senses, knowing how to process information will be a fundamental element. To process means understanding the meaning of messages and keeping track of the different points of a conversation.

Effective CEOs in processing will be those who remember the contributions of others, they have the ability to summarize the points of agreement and disagreement, and detect the most important topics and messages from the conversation.

Finally, empathetic listening requires response: guarantee to the different parties involved that you have really listened, so to promote communication and continue the conversation. In this manner, CEOs who respond efficiently are those who are capable of correctly utilizing verbal recognition and clarifying the contents of a conversation.

The CEO who wants to socialize in an effective way must participate in different dimensions of empathetic listening. Only like this will trust be generated to strengthen his/her reputation to allow the parties to express their emotions, facilitate information exchange and create an environment that fosters the resolve of disputes.

The truth is that the willingness and ability to listen with empathy is what often differentiates a CEO with a good reputation, versus a CEO who does not.

Marta Carrió has a PhD in Corporate Reputation (UPF). Additionally, she is a Partner at Plan, a consultancy specializing in measuring, analyzing and managing corporate reputation.

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