If you are taking over as the CEO of a new company, one of the first things you want to do is to start by understanding the reason why this company exists. Knowing why this company was created, and what its purpose is, will help you clarify the strategic direction you need to take.
You may be tempted to start solving problems and telling people what to do from the get-go, however, you may want to take a pause and learn more about the organization and its people before you run full steam ahead.
When a new leader comes, there are high expectations of change, from all stakeholders. From the board of directors which hired you, to the last employee that is hoping for a change. A new CEO brings hope and soon, if that leader fails to communicate, people will start speculating and becoming anxious about what to expect.
If you do this right, you can impact the overall performance of your company very soon. Be quick to communicate any new direction for the business, and enough information about you, your style, your hopes, and your values. Give people a reason to embrace the change and find meaning in it, so they can decide to stick around and bring their energy and commitment to the task at hand.
If this communication does not happen soon, people disengage and feel that nothing really changed. Experiencing a change in leadership and no change in the status-quo can be devastating for employee morale. However, you can become an inspiration for those who did not like what was happening before your arrival.
Do you feel like being the face of change can be very stressful and challenging to manage? Well, showing up for your people is one of the most important parts of the job. You have to be ready for it, as most of your lasting success will come from the first impressions you make as a trustworthy leader.
Consider incorporating these activities to the first 90 days in the new role:
- Plan a Town Hall meeting to introduce yourself to all employees. Be sure to meet with your direct team first, it is important that you build trust and alignment with them before you address the bigger organization. Touch a little bit on what your vision is for the business strategy. Talk about your values and what you would expect from them as they work with you.
- Invest time getting to know your core team. It is imperative that you assess the talent you have. Understanding what they do, how they do it and what their strengths and development needs are, is crucial for making the first people decisions.
Consider focus groups with specific teams or skip-level meetings with key people you should meet and know sooner rather than later.
- Help your organization connect the dots, aligning the strategy to plans. Understanding how to translate the strategy into concrete action plans is one of the toughest things to do right. Get your core team to work together on developing shared company goals, functional goals and individual goals. Work on choosing the right Key Performance Indicators to clarify what success should look like in an objective way.
- Build trust from day one. Be careful to lead by example. Choose your words and your actions strategically. People are watching and listening to everything you say and do. Trust is built on empathy, active listening, vulnerability and risk. Manage your impulse of getting into making decisions and executing right away. Put time on the agenda to understand the culture, unwritten rules and how decisions are being made. When people feel heard, they feel you care, they feel hope and that they can trust you.
- Acknowledge publicly all the good things that were done before you arrived. People appreciate when someone builds on, not when someone destroys past work. Appreciating the work that has been done, even if that is not your own doing, makes people feel valued.
- Make critical people-decisions fast, even if it is hard. The first months on the job create a unique opportunity to reshape the culture by enhancing the positive culture values, beliefs and behaviors, and to express the changes you expect to see going forward. Do not delay removing toxic leaders from the organization and promoting those who will help you achieve your organizational goals.
Last, “communicate, communicate, communicate”. Your team and the whole organization need to hear from you very often. They want to know what is expected of them and where you are leading them to. There has to be a good reason for them to stick around and help you. They need to find meaning in what they are doing. Part of it is their own responsibility, but you can do a lot to help accelerate this process of assimilating you as a new leader and the ideas you bring.