After way too many years in life running HR, I do have a different perspective: A CEO needs to be accessible (not for every little problem — but generally). Maybe through regular update meetings (they like to see you), walking the halls, establishing Q&A times.
You can’t do it any other way with employees; they are an asset, not just words. CEOs: Its good for your employees to want to be close to you, and you get what you need: innovation and productivity. They will follow you to the ends of the earth if they know you care. The less they hear, the more they feel unappreciated and fill in voids (in which we know our brain is wired to take no info as bad info).
In HR we valued talking to employees because well, it was part of the job description. We also learned from them. I did not want everyone in my office with every little thing. Here is how I managed with 3 questions: What would you like from me? What is your solution to the problem? When would you like to come back and let me know how you resolved?
This was empowering.
Many of them never came back. They actually wanted to complain or, make the problem go away by me telling them an answer.
I have a friend of a friend, 25 years old, works for a startup. Very sure they wanted empowered employees. CEO took him out for a drink and asked him how he was. Did he feel even stronger about the companies success? Hell, yes!
I couldn’t agree more: I surely didn’t mean to imply that you should not talk to your employees, ask them how they are doing and how you can help them. But that’s my point — your job is to help them do their job, not do their job (which is what you do if you don’t empower them).
People are messy. Which makes managing them fun. :)