It's hard to motivate people if they perceive you as a distant authority figure. When you try to rally the troops, they may think, "This person doesn't care about me or know what it's like to do my job. I'm working hard; the CEO is out there golfing."
Few if any of Larissa Herda's 3,000 employees cop that attitude.
Herda, chairman and CEO of TW Telecom in Littleton, Colo., motivates by leveling with her workforce. When the company acquired a smaller firm two years ago, she had to appeal to her employees to look past their fear of change and embrace the situation.
"I have a tendency to talk off script and tell personal stories so that people understand I'm a human being," she says. "When they hear my history, they come to the conclusion I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And that brings us closer."
Herda tells employees that she was once laid off when her employer went bankrupt. She ran up her credit cards and struggled to pay her bills, living paycheck to paycheck. Ten years later, she became a CEO.