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The CEO’s leadership role in optimizing emotional well-being in employees

Organizations that create a culture of employee well-being and engagement perform better. Here are simple steps to get started.

4 min read



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Executive leadership requires multifaceted capacity. Corporate leaders are responsible for every aspect of their organization, including strategic vision, finance and accounting, marketing and sales, operations, law, ethics and more. The smart ones know to surround themselves with experts who can complement their own knowledge so that the organization is strong on every front.

The most successful CEOs, however, are the ones who understand the importance of building a healthy organizational culture. These are the leaders who see—and value—the connection between employee satisfaction and customer service performance. The best way to ensure your organization’s success is to build a culture around optimizing your employee’s emotional well-being

This is something I learned firsthand as a CEO, when I led a major medical center from the lowest reaches of patient satisfaction to the among the highest. It is something I have been teaching to others for more than 15 years as a leadership coach for other corporate executives.

Organizations that create a culture of employee well-being and engagement have stronger financial performance, less employee turnover, few worker compensations claims, lower healthcare premiums and happier employees and higher levels of productivity.

Ensuring your employees’ emotional well-being is not as complex as, say, tax law. But it does require sustained attentiveness to the people around you. Here are five steps that you can take to contribute to your employees’ emotional well-being:

  1. Listen to your employees. Find a way to ensure that all employees, at every level in the organization, have an opportunity to communicate to the CEO or to a high-level surrogate how they feel about working in the organization, what they like and what they wish could be improved.
  2. Communicate your plan of action. Based on the results of “listening,” communicate the specifics of your plan of action to address the comments received on employee satisfaction. Provide specific goals and timetables for improvement.
  3. Train the team. Invest in training your staff or “train the trainer,” and make sure that all employees, including managers, supervisors, etc., receive specific training on how to optimize emotional well-being in the workplace.
  4. Align the goals. Make sure that your employees’ individual goals are in alignment with your organization’s goals.
  5. Reward and recognize. Far too often, we focus on reprimanding employees for poor performance and not enough on rewarding those who excel. Create small and large ways to reward employees. It can be as simple as free tickets to the local movie theater or as extravagant as vacations or dinner packages. The most important thing is to celebrate success and reward those who are showing everyone else the way.

I have met other executives who argued against investing time and energy in a healthy workplace culture. Their philosophy is that a person should be happy to have a job and should simply follow the rules set by the employer. You will likely meet professionals of a similar mindset, if you haven’t already.

I stand firm, however, in my belief in the value of promoting employees’ well-being. I have seen, time and again, that the CEOs who bring out the best in others, who listen to what their employees have to say, and who make sure that their employees’ voices, concerns and actions matter will position their organizations for long-term success.


Dennis C. Miller is a nationally recognized strategic leadership coach, executive search consultant, author and keynote speaker. He is the managing director of The Nonprofit Search Group with more than 35 years of experience working with nonprofit board leadership and chief executives across the country. Miller is also an expert in board governance, leadership development, philanthropy and succession planning. In addition, he is a sought-after motivational speaker, retreat facilitator and leadership performance coach. Email Miller.

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