by Alisa Marie Beyer, CEO, LemonTree Partners
Congratulations! You’ve just been promoted into the C-suite executive position of your dreams, and you’re undoubtedly proud and excited. You’re also undoubtedly busy. New executives always have a lot on their plates. For any newly established C-suiter, taking on all of these tasks and getting started in their new position is a critical time. Eyes are on your every move and decision; pressure is high, expectations even higher. It can all end up feeling like a clustery mess of competing priorities and tasks to be done, with no time (or maybe even real critical knowledge) of how to do it all.
Although taking on a new C-suite position is an exciting step, at the moment of transition into their new role, C-suite execs — even those who have been in a C-suite position before — are effectively in beta mode and vulnerable. In their first 18 months, 50% of executive leadership transitions fail.
However, this statistic can be the exception and not the rule. After building five of my own companies and working with dozens of corporate leaders, I’ve learned there is one critical step every C-suite exec can take to help mitigate their risk of failing: learning how to navigate stakeholder relationships.
1. Meet your Team.
There will be many firsts as a new CEO: the first day in the office; the first time leading a company-wide meeting; the first day of introducing yourself to your immediate direct reports, not to mention all the rest of the employees at your company. Even if you’ve worked your way up the ranks and already know most of these folks, meeting them as “the boss” is a different experience. While it may seem like you have all the time in the world to start establishing and nurturing a relationship with your core team, smart leaders will make this a top priority.
Get key stakeholders on your calendar ASAP; hear their stories and learn their frustrations and acquaint yourself with their work product and what they are doing (or not) in their positions. By gathering all of this data upfront and early, you will be in a far better place to gauge how and where these critical employees fit into your new vision for the company.
2. Consciously Connect.
It goes without saying that C-suite executives are a busy bunch. Tasked with guiding not just the growth of their departments but also in many cases the wellbeing of the entire company, it’s not always easy to interact in a personal, informal way with coworkers — especially those you maybe don’t see that often. However, connecting with everyone on the team has to be a priority.
The hallmark of a successful company isn’t just completing tasks or winning new business, it’s the bonds and connections employees feel towards leadership, towards one another, towards the corporate culture and vision, and towards succeeding as a unit. Employees who feel recognized and known by C-suite execs are far more likely to show high levels of satisfaction with their jobs and loyalty than those who feel like a cog in a wheel, and it’s the C-suite leader’s job to forge these bonds, not the other way around.
3. Bend (But Don’t Break).
That may sound like funny advice, but ask any executive what their most critical skill as a leader is and they’ll likely tell you it is being able to adapt, or in other words, bend. Most companies and leadership teams have ways and means in place for how things get done — and they like it like that. New executives are likely going to come into their positions with ideas of their own, as well as plans for shaking things up to achieve these goals. Believe it or not, harmony can exist between these two seemingly dissimilar goals if new executives are willing to adapt how they communicate and work with their new teams moving forward.
Rather than dictating what is and what shall be, take the time to talk with your leadership team and get their input and advice. They have all likely been working in their positions for some time and are familiar with the tangibles (and intangibles) that have worked in the past or not panned out. Having this information at the get-go can make the difference between hitting the ground running or spinning your wheels in frustration.
The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is one that wise corporate leaders, newly in their positions, will take to heart. By making these three priorities a key part of their transition strategy, new executives are ideally positioned to avoid the biggest challenges to executive transition and emerge on the other side stronger and far more likely to succeed.
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. As a proven entrepreneur who has built and sold five companies, our CEO, Alisa Beyer, knows how important it is to effectively define clear and powerful strategic priorities and how to align and mobilize teams to deliver on individualized action plans.