18 December 2019

Introducing a new CEO: the importance of first impressions

You’ve got a new CEO on the horizon and it’s your job to help manage the transition. What do you do?

Well firstly, check out our previous post about introducing a new CEO which has some top tips for managing the process smoothly. 

Then, you ask yourself ‘what shoes will the new CEO be filling?’ Did your old CEO leave a trail of destruction or did they deliver record-breaking performance?

Your answer to this will determine how you manage the transition from old CEO to new CEO.

People Matters identify four main types of CEO transition. Here they are, with a few tips from us on how you can plan for each.


  1. Replacing an icon

Nearly one in five new leaders step into the shoes of a very successful predecessor. A popular example of such a transition was Tim Cook’s replacement of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple.

How do you manage this?

With empathy and respect. Acknowledge the achievements of the past, keep it positive and do what you can to bring people with you. There will be a loyalty to the former CEO. Align your new CEO with that and position them as working in congruence with that agenda.


  1. Following a train wreck

More than one quarter of all transitions follow a “train wreck”: a situation in which the previous leader has failed spectacularly.

How do you manage this?

In this circumstance, CEOs need to quickly communicate a clear vision for the organisation. How can you help them do that? Support them to quickly build relationships and demonstrate leadership. When things are failing, employees need to feel as though someone is taking control – someone they trust.


  1. Jump start

Almost one-fifth of leadership transitions fit the “jump start” model, where the organisation needs to quickly move in a different direction because of a change in strategy or the broader economic environment.

How do you manage this?

This model requires a two-step approach. First, it’s about learning. How can you support your CEO to learn as much as they can about your organisation quickly?

Then, it’s about change. How can you get employees bought into the new direction? This is crucial. If they’re not fully on board with the organisation’s strategy, they won’t buy-in to your new CEO (and vice versa).


  1. Breaking ground

Nearly 4 in 10 leadership transitions involve moving into a newly created position, underscoring the increasing presence of executive roles for managing new priorities related to social media, data, risk, sustainability, and shared services

How do you manage this?

When it’s a brand new role in a growing company, it’s critical to help employees understand the need for the role. It’s not about building in red tape and hierarchy. It’s about responsibility and governance. It’s a sign of a maturing business. Make it a positive conversation.


They say that first impressions count. How will you support your new CEO to make the right first impression?

If you need some help with introducing a new CEO, or any other big organisational change, drop us a line.

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