The Worst Things a CEO Can Do

The Worst Things a CEO Can Do
August 23, 2017 admin
In Podcasts

Employee engagement is traditionally very low, but a careless or complacent CEO can make things even worse. In this Tough Things First podcast, legendary Silicon Valley CEO Ray Zinn talks about the WORST thing a CEO can do if he or she wants to improve company morale and employee engagement?

Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, guest host for this edition of Tough Things First. I’m a screenwriter and entrepreneur in California and as always, I’m happy to be back again. Ray?

Ray Zinn: I’m likewise, Rob. Thanks for joining us.

Rob Artigo: Sure. Always, always fun. On another podcast, we talked about employee engagement, which apparently is remarkably low, generally, and how a CEO can have a positive impact on that. I’d like to tie engagement to morale and ask you this. What’s the worst thing a CEO can do if the goal is to improve engagement and morale?

Ray Zinn: Well, you know, the thing I like the least, of course, is people who are whiners. They complain. That drives me absolutely bonkers. How do we avoid or how do we minimize the complaining is by having good communication, whereby making sure our employees understand the role and the mission of the company and what their particular role is.

Rob Artigo: Have you found, in your experience, that most employees really understand their roles or that it requires some help? Sometimes, people hire somebody and they go, “All right, here’s your job.” It’s like the old cannon concept, “Fire and forget.” Just fire and forget. You just throw them out there and go, “Okay, go,” but I don’t think it’s always the case. I think most often, it’s not, where the employee doesn’t always fully understand what they mean to the company and the real purpose intended by the managers who hired them.

Ray Zinn: That’s the mistake of a manager. If your employee does not understand his role or his responsibility, that’s the fault of the manager. The manager is the one that sits down with his employees on a regular basis, ask them how they’re doing, how they like their job, what can we do better, and don’t wait until review time to sit down with your people. You got to do it on a regular basis.

Maybe once a week or at least twice a month, sit down with each of them, individually and just kind of get a little bit of a sense of how they’re doing and how they like their work, and if they’re not enjoying what they’re doing, they’re certainly not going to do a very good job for the company.

The best thing to improve company morale is to make sure your employees are engaged. The more excited they are about their job, the more likely they will come to work on time. They won’t be spending time on the radio or the TV screen and stuff or listening to music or taking walks. They just can’t wait to get to work and be involved in the business of the company.

Rob Artigo: See, to me, that’s what an engaged employee is, and I think an engaged employee is, by nature, someone who has a good – yeah. Right. The morale is high. Yeah. If you’re engaged and your morale is high, then your productivity is up there because you’re in fact doing more oftentimes, as an engaged employee, than is required of you. You’re just generally that much more productive.

Ray Zinn: What the manager will find is that the employee gets his work done on time. Work is done well. They seem to be happy. They’re smiling. They’re engaged. That’s the key, as a manager, when you’re interfacing with your people.

Look at their demeanor. Do they look happy? Do they look contented and enthusiastic? Are they asking questions? Do they want to do more? Have they come to you and said, “Hey, is there something more I can do? Is there anything else I can help the company with?” That indicates to me a happy employee.

Rob Artigo: How much more is an employee like that worth to a company? I’m not talking about financially, how much you would pay for that person, but I’m just saying, as an individual in the company, how much more is a person who is engaged with high morale than a person who just comes and does an adequate job but [crosstalk 00:04:59]?

Ray Zinn: They get 20% more done. They get 20% more done. That’s my experience is that the happy employee does 20% more than the unhappy employee.

Rob Artigo: What does the engaged, high morale employee get in return? Longevity? What does it  …

Ray Zinn: Absolutely. Lots of loyalty. If you’re loyal to the company, the company will be loyal to you. I know that’s not true in all cases, but that’s the way it should be. If you’re loyal, they’re loyal and you’re more likely to get promotions. You’re more likely to get higher, better reviews, better merit increases. You sow, so shall you reap. In other words, you put your whole heart into it. You’re going to get it in return. Anyway, this is what I have observed in most cases.

Rob Artigo: Let’s not forget that the employees, in some cases, are managers in the chain of command, so those managers are employees as well. Managers, just like anybody else, can be disengaged and can have a low morale and the same things apply. Same thing that can affect an employee who is working a data entry job at entry level and then versus somebody who’s a mid-level manager. Those same dynamics apply.

Ray Zinn: Absolutely. We’re all employees. Even the CEO is an employee. If you’re not showing interest in your job, if you’re not engaged, you’re not going to be a very effective CEO. The way you tell how a morale is is you can look at some indicators like turnover, how many people are leaving the company and the reasons why they’re leaving. That’s another way you can measure how the company’s doing is look at the reasons that their employees are leaving. Look at how your projects are doing, how quickly they’re getting done. Just how people are engaged and talking to each other. The less hostility there is. That’s another indicator that things are going well, so a happy workplace is a productive workplace.

Rob Artigo: Was it your own on-the-job experience or watching others tried and failed that really helped you understand what to do and what not to do when it came to engagement and morale?

Ray Zinn: Yes. Absolutely. We learn through experience. In the 37 years I was running Micrel, I get better and better at it every year, and so that which you persist in doing, you will do better. You will improve.

Rob Artigo: Which is why we always ask people to return to and listen to the other podcasts because it’s somewhat of a master’s class here at Tough Things First, and this podcast is just one part of it. You can subscribe to the podcast at You can follow Ray at Tough Things First on Facebook, and you can also follow your blog on, Ray, and you really get some interesting insights there as well. It’s a continuing education process.

Ray Zinn: We’re on LinkedIn and on Twitter too. LinkedIn, we have a lot of people asking good questions, and we’re more than happy to answer those, so feel free to get involved with us. Help us help you. That’s the bottom line of Tough Things First.

Rob Artigo: Right, and refer a friend. Thanks again, Ray.

Ray Zinn: Thank you very much, Rob.

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