Times of transition can be tricky, especially when it comes to senior leadership changes.
Bringing new people onboard always takes work, but when they’re stepping into the big shoes of a departing CEO, it can be a balancing act to keep employees on-side whilst allowing the new leader to set the tone for how they will drive the business forward. Having someone new in an organisation’s top position can ruffle feathers of the long-standing employees who have been around for years and it’s vital to try and make the process as smooth as possible for everyone.
It doesn’t have to be a scary process though; here are a few simple tips companies can follow in order to make a seamless transition…
1. Allow time for ‘bedding in’
Before making any groundbreaking changes, give plenty of time for the new CEO to ‘bed in’. They will need to learn the company’s history, get to know its culture and get a feel for the mood internally, before implementing any new processes or strategies. Steamrolling in with lots of major change may make employees defensive of their current ways of working. Giving the new CEO as much information as possible in their first few weeks will get them up to speed quickly and make the transition painless. Organisation charts with employees’ names on, information on company policies and processes and a complete overview of company history can help any new starter to settle into an organisation quickly.
2. Acknowledge the past whilst looking towards the future
The appointment of a new CEO may just be the result of their predecessor retiring, or it could have come as part of a big organisational change. Whatever the situation, it’s important to accept what has happened up to this point, but to ensure that the focus is on the future and working towards that. Learning from past experiences can be powerful but the organisation must also acknowledge that the new CEO may bring change with them, and that perhaps this is for the best.
3. Communication is key
Keeping employees informed is important through changes to senior leadership. The CEO should be introduced as early as possible to allow people to get to know them and give them a chance to set the tone of what their leadership style will be. Going forward, it’s good to keep employees informed of any changes or new policies that the new CEO will be implementing too, so that any changes don’t come as a shock. HR and internal communications teams can act as a point of contact between teams and help to keep messaging consistent and open.
4. Involve your people
Don’t keep senior leaders and the CEO in an ivory tower, away from employees and the day-to-day running of the business. Engage staff and get them involved with any changes that might be made by the new CEO. Get them to ‘walk the floor’ and shake people’s hands, making the effort to genuinely get to know people. Employees can provide on-the-ground insight, plus working together will help to keep all parties happy and make people feel valued.
5. Get to know the new CEO’s style
Not every CEO will be the extrovert, face-of-the-whole-company Richard Branson type. Some may lead in a more low-key and laidback way. Regardless of their style, whether they’re a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates, they should communicate their way of doing things when they first start, in an authentic and meaningful way that will resonate with employees.
6. Know that change can be difficult
Change is hard, even when it’s positive. An organisational change as big as appointing a new CEO might not be plain sailing, but acknowledging that can help. Meeting with employees who will be most affected by the change and allowing them to air their concerns will create an environment of openness, honesty and mutual support.
If you need some help with introducing a new CEO, or any other big organisational change, our coaching team would be happy to help out. Drop us a line and let’s chat.