As the CEO of a consulting and services firm, I had some concern about how my staff would react to the announcement that I was expecting my first baby. Would they see me as weaker? Would they think my drive might change?
Sharing this kind of personal information is, at times, uncomfortable, but necessary for the future of my business. Of course, CEOs are people too; they have babies, undergo treatment for health issues, get married or divorced, and even take time off. Yet, imparting big news, whether good or bad, isn’t something to be taken lightly.
How do you share personal news with your employees? I’ve come up with five tips to help based on my experience, but I’d love to hear your suggestions as well:
- Find a good time. There’s a dance between sharing too early or too late. If it’s too early, you are still processing the situation and determining how to handle things. If you’re too late, other people may have gotten wind of the situation and will talk; we all know how rumors can disrupt the workplace. It’s better for employees to hear it from you than from anyone else, so give some thought to the best time, given internal and external issues.
- Just the facts. Share only the facts of the situation. People will naturally have questions, but you aren’t talking to your best friend or sister. You only need to provide information on the issues that will impact the staff.
- Keep things shipshape. The way any kind of news affects employees has more to do with processes, procedures and leadership than anything else. Our consulting firm has spent a lot of time documenting processes and training employees so that they can do their job with minimal interference from management. My managers can handle anything thrown at them and are confident I will back any decision they make. Reiterating this to the team smoothed any concerns about me taking time off.
- Have a plan. Even when your business is in good condition, you’ll need a plan for any interruption, good or bad. Work with senior leadership to determine how the company will handle decision-making and emergency situations.
- Communicate that management has everything well in hand. If you’ve normally done a monthly employee communication, continue that. If you haven’t, starting now may cause speculation. The managers you leave in charge should continue to operate normally and the employees should know everything is business as usual.
Regardless of whether I’m in the Bahamas, on vacation, or on maternity leave, it’s going to be business as usual, and that’s the overriding message to our staff.
Customers and competitors really need not know you’re even gone. While I am the CEO and founder of the company, the business model we run on does not require me to be involved in every aspect. I regularly work with customers, but my team is well trained to handle any client project. Knowing my company had a plan allowed me to spend time with my new baby. As to getting back to eight hours of sleep every night…