A recent programme in the often fascinating Peter Day's World of Business series dealt with the question of whether it's possible in this day and age for a CEO to be truly effective.
One of the issues raised was that of how CEOs can truly keep on top of what's going on in their organisations, given their status and remoteness from the front end of the business. It was raised by a famous Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, back in the 1960s, when he asked, in frustration how he could discover what was really going on in the State Department other than by reading memos that had already been published in the Washington Post. Nobody within the organisation would level with him because the culture determined that as the top man he must only be give a sanitised view of the real world.
Today, it's the reason why we see TV programmes where chief execs go undercover in their own businesses to find out the reality of day to day existence for employees - and then declare their surprise and sometimes horror at what they find.
In many ways this lack of awareness among CEOs is strange, given the availability and potential of well designed and managed employee engagement surveys.
Based on the data from focus groups and carefully drafted questionnaires, such surveys can provide graphic, sometimes forensic insights into everyday life within the largest organisations. Which is why the best CEOs don't need to go undercover. They know that surveys provide a powerful way to stay in touch.
We've worked with top leaders who make it their business to get deeply involved with engagement surveys by personally feeding back the findings, acknowledging the messages that employees have sent and committing to specific follow up action.
These individuals ALWAYS get results and their businesses benefit hugely as a consequence. Some CEOs really are up to the job.