As a new CEO, there are many priorities and immediate tasks that are going to need your attention. But given the fact that 50 percent of executive leaderships fail within the first 18 months, knowing which priorities and tasks to give your attention at the outset can make the difference between success and failure.
As a five-time entrepreneur and having helped hundreds of C-suite executives cultivate successful transitions, I can say without a doubt that one of the most important parts of the job is shepherding people and learning to navigate relationships. Unless you’ve been with your company since the get-go, it’s likely you’ll be coming into your new role a stranger. And even if you are well-known to your company and team, taking on the mantle of CEO still requires a dedicated focus on stakeholder relationships that you likely didn’t need in your previous position.
It may sound obvious, but the best way to start is … to meet your team. Get to know not only your direct reports but all of the employees who work for you. Introduce yourself and try (as best as you’re able) to understand their position and perspective, what value they bring to the organization, and how you could potentially translate their skills and capabilities to the initiatives and projects you’re going to be introducing as CEO. You never know what hidden gems you may have in your ranks, and an investment in knowing your team before you start making drastic changes could very well lead to tapping an unknown source for exactly what you need.
Next, take the time to connect authentically, in particular with your immediate team and the folks with whom you work each day and will rely upon the most as you transition into your role. This step might seem like a lot of effort, and indeed it is. Connecting to an entire team of people, each with his or her own unique charms and quirks, isn’t done in a day. However, this investment in time will more than pay off in building engagement, rapport and symmetry between you and your team — and amongst your team members themselves. Remember, employees who feel valued and recognized for the unique contribution (and hard work!) they’re bringing to the table are far more likely to show high levels of job satisfaction and loyalty. Furthermore, they’re more likely to work hard to help you realize your vision for the company. That’s a check in the box for how to successfully transition if ever there was one.
Finally, learn to listen and adapt. Often, because CEOs are busy and — let’s be honest — used to being listened to, they forget they need to be good listeners themselves. They also forget the benefits of learning to adapt when better options are presented. No executive leads alone. In fact, most would be nothing without the powerful team they assemble around them to help them manage and execute their vision. Learning to listen to your critical stakeholders and adapt your behavior to not only accommodate their needs but perhaps embrace a solution you didn’t envision will only make your transition into leadership more successful and seamless, and your team that much more likely to rally around you with loyalty and true excitement.
Alisa Marie Beyer is the CEO of LemonTree Partners, a boutique strategy company specializing in helping executives and companies effectively manage leadership transitions, team alignment, and growth strategies.