Are You a First Time CEO?

Have you moved into a CEO or Executive role for the first time?

First – congratulations!

You have stepped into a whole new world. It’s not the same as the world of a successful senior manager, it will draw on your experience and technical capabilities, but you now need other competencies and in my experience, many new CEO’s and Executives don’t really appreciate how big the ‘gap’ is.

This was the case for one our clients that had rapidly been promoted to CEO of a mid tiered service-based business. His commission from the Board was to continue to grow the business whilst dealing with the fallout of a previous toxic authoritarian culture. That’s quite a challenge for a brand new CEO!

For him to meet the challenge required a change in how he viewed himself and how he behaved. This was the beginning of the transition from being a manager, to being a leader. His personal development started with being responsible i.e. that he is the source of everything that happens in his business; he could not point the finger at someone else before he pointed the finger at himself. He knew that the previous CEO had not been responsible, and that created a victim culture – lack of accountability, gossip, blame, lack of integrity and engagement.

He created his vision for the business and then began the process of confronting what it takes for himself to live that vision and have the organisation live that vision. Here are 2 key leverage points he went to work on:

His relationship with the Board was a priority because they could be a powerful partner or a source of resistance to doing what was required. He took on clarifying what they wanted from him and the Executives and how they wanted the team to communicate with them so that they could be supportive and decision making could be streamlined. He also took on having conversations with individual board members that he felt were putting up roadblocks and those roadblocks were not being resolved. He was genuine in wanting to know what their concerns were.

Having a sporting background, the CEO understood that his executive team was not actually a team. Instead they operated as a group of people who came together to report on their part of the business. Largely, they operated as silos. He wanted an A-Grade Team, not a team of A-Graders. He was commissioned by the board to create a culture in line with the organisation’s vision and values and he would not achieve this unless he had an Executive ‘Team’. They worked together to create a team charter – common purpose, mission, strategic areas of focus, objectives and what actions were required to achieve those objectives. This charter was their shared accountability and they agreed to hold each other to account. They are now confronting what it takes to implement the charter in their business.

This evolution of the CEO and the Executive Team is still a work in progress, but they are now confident that they have what it will take to manage the evolution of their culture and their business.

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