Novak's interview was refreshing because of all the things it didn't do.
It didn't play into the au currant "all CEOs are baaaad" bleat of the media sheep. Unlike many chief executives this year who have spoken only as necessary (and often only to shareholders or with legal counsel present), he spoke without any official corporate "spin," and quite candidly. And he didn't restrict the discussion to a recession-era timeframe -- Novak's advice is good in all sorts of economic weather.
Chief executives are often loath to 1) make themselves seem accessible and 2) make their employees know that they're appreciated. For some top performers, appearing human -- and occasionally fallible -- requires a supreme effort. But singling out a worker for recognition, or apologizing for a (small!) mistake made at an employee's expense, can only strengthen the corporate network. It will serve as a tiny reinforcement, whether it's a small monetary award, a confidence or a smile, a welcoming acknowledgment that he's a vital part of the team. Perhaps -- though this isn't the main goal, of course -- it will compel him or her to make even more of an effort. (Even when that effort already represents more than his or her "normal" share due to company-wide cost-cutting initiatives.) And if both parties are still employed when business turns around, that one small act will still yield benefits.
So fling some free "food" to the compliment-starved masses. It's always been easy -- but it has rarely been as crucial as it is today.
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Todd Obolsky has covered a wide range of industries for Vault’s print and online company profiles (including consumer products, government, non-profit, retail, advertising, internet, energy and publishing) and manages Vault’s Layoff Tracker. He has also written for Penguin Group’s Rough Guides and DK travel series. He holds a BS in Mathematics from Bucknell University and an MBA (with a market research concentration) from City University of New York’s Baruch College.
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