The 4 Most Powerful Words a CEO Can Say
January 17, 2015

The 4 Most Powerful Words a CEO Can Say

by Brian de Haaff

It is strange being a CEO. It can actually be lonely. People think you have all the answers and often have little to say around you. They anxiously wait for your words. And that is why, for too many employees, the CEO is little more than a stranger behind the corner office door. Meaningful words are never spoken.

It is a shame when the CEO is a mystery. Who wants to work for a company where the most important leader is little more than a title?

I have always done my best to be me first and the CEO second. While I might not always be a CEO, I will always be me and we all benefit when I share who I am and what I believe in.

I know this is easier said than done. Whether you are CEO of a startup or a large multi-national, you feel vulnerable at times. And it is easy to stay veiled. But as CEO of Aha!, employee high performance and happiness is always on my mind. It is my job to ensure that everyone is as productive as possible. To make that happen, I need to help each person be better than they ever thought was possible.

As the CEO, my job is to be omni-present to serve employees.

This goes beyond ensuring that they have all the tools they need. On a deeper level, they need to know that they can approach me without personal judgement. They need to know that I believe in their potential for greatness and that I am committed to them being better tomorrow than they are today.

So, do you know what I say to make that clear?

The four most powerful words a CEO can use are, “How can I help?”

This sends a strong message to your team, whether someone’s new or has been with you since day one. When you ask this question, they know you’re:

Committed We have all been thrown into the deep end at work. Whether you drowned or self-taught yourself to swim, it isn’t fun — and can kill morale. Asking how you can help has two positive impacts: it demonstrates strong commitment and ignites a sense of teamwork. I am all in.

Responsive Employees will not always ask for help. They have been conditioned to try to do it all themselves and not to make more demands on the CEO’s time. Many CEOs do not care enough to ask. The ones who do are rare — and make a strong impression. They are there to serve employees and be responsive to their needs.

Caring If you are asking how you can help, the question exposes your humanity. It says that you care about the person and the work they are doing. Caring is good for every leader as it allows you to stay in control, remain humble, and maintain perspective. It puts the other person first and throws out any sense of company hierarchy. It deepens relationships and the effort people put in.

CEOs often forget that their employees are the ultimate shareholders. They control the destiny of the organization.

Employees have bet their livelihoods and working happiness on the company and the CEO who is leading it. So, CEOs must internalize this and put employees and their potential for achievement first.

My job is to set a vision, give the team purpose, and ensure that every single employee can better themselves and the world.

How can I help? What has your CEO done to help you?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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