Avoid Floundering Leadership Transitions in the First Year, by Supporting Incoming Leaders
With the great resignation, quiet quitting, and a myriad of other factors, organizations are struggling. Our (almost) post-pandemic era, including changing priorities, seems to be affecting the C-suites, in the business world, like revolving doors.
As we emerge from COVID-19 realities, your organization may be experiencing different priorities and seeing a need for a change “at the top.”
But what have you done to facilitate that change? To ensure that with any new leadership appointments, you’ve designed and planned the succession to be successful.
Pre-pandemic statistics across North America show that 40% of new CEOs fail and are either terminated or quit within the first 18 months into their job.
You go through the cost of time and money to secure a great candidate and ensure succession. Then, you must repeat the process because the candidate was unsuccessful.
One cannot overemphasize the urgency of ensuring a smooth and productive transition.
Business Transition Specialist Jane Halford poses this challenge, “If this was how businesses ran before the pandemic, what do you think it’s going to be like when we see lots of retirements happening in 2022? My goal is to help change the success factor for those top talents.”
This article will uncover some tips to consider when replacing a high-performing, high-impact leader.
Passionate about helping entrepreneurs, business owners, CEOs, and other executives get ready for and walk through the journey of handing over a leadership role, Halford has some great insight, “I think in all of our careers, we’ve been the new person. And we realize there are things somebody could have told us 6 months ago or 12 months ago that would have saved us time and effort. And that’s the gap we’re trying to bridge,”
Halford has these helpful tips to achieve a smooth and productive leadership transition.
1. Avoid friction and allow time for adaptation and adjustment.
I learned as a child that whenever we brought home a new fish for our tank, no matter how badly we wanted to see him swim around, we could not just dump the fish into the tank when we got home. If we wanted it to survive, we had to take our time and submerge our new addition, still in its water bag, into the tank for a few hours. This allowed a couple of things to happen. The water temperature between the tank and the bag would stabilize–the environment for the fish would change slowly over time. Leaving the fish in his bubble (the bag and the water) allowed the fish to acclimate to the new community and surroundings.
It is not uncommon for new leaders to enter their new environment and step on landmines of culture and values–Setting off avoidable explosions that they then have to overcome.
“If there’s something distinctive and valuable here, we want them to not only hear those values and culture from you, but actually experience it, and we want them to be able to embody that,” says Halford.
As a first step, the organization must have a clear understanding of what the culture and values are. Those responsible must do the pre-work of defining the expectations of all the stakeholders at all levels so they too, can acclimate.
2. Let your new leaders know of your expectations as an organization.
According to Halford, the number one reason new leaders fail is that there’s a mixed expectation between what they think they should be doing and what the people senior to them believe.
By being open about your expectations, you can open the door to ask the new leader, “So what part of that do you need extra knowledge about, extra introductions about?”
Check out the full interview with Jane Halford
3. Support the new leader with a Transition Team
Surrounding the new leader with a “Circle-of-Gold” transition team–go-to resources to answer questions, provide guidance, historical references, etc. can be a boon for the new leader.
Halford says, “I would rather people think of these folks as high performers who can be even higher-performing if we give them some acceleration.”
A dedicated team can help leaders see past their blind side and help them reset expectations.
4. Support the leader throughout every business cycle.
Businesses have cycles and seasons. Each provides a unique perspective and challenge. So, it matters to be supportive and responsive to any questions they may have.
Monthly and quarterly strategy sessions with the transition team can equip the new leader with ongoing sets of clear expectations.
5. Have a plan
If you get anything from this article, it’s to have a plan. If you are not already in crisis, work with your current CEO, Division head or team leader to define an emergency CEO Transition plan. At the very least, your organization will have a strategic plan in case of illness, accident or other unforeseen circumstances.
Remember that planning for a CEO’s success involves the whole organization. At every level of the hierarchy, people may have the most crucial information needed to make reliable and responsible decisions. Halford reiterates that credibility and trust are built when the new leader asks them questions and seeks to understand better. From there, they can find new opportunities to do things differently.
As a caution, Halford advises, “I would say, don’t start too late. I think that we always wait until the new person is here or that they’re struggling. So, start early and keep the conversation going.”
Set regular check-ins focussed on what’s going well, what is within our expectations or what has come up we didn’t expect. The goal is to help each other better by being open to joint problem-solving. A virtual or phone call every 30, 60 and 90 days would be ideal.
Halford has these cautionary tips:
- Don’t wait until you know your CEO is leaving – start with emergency planning now
- Don’t wait until you know the name of your next CEO
- Don’t wait until the CEO’s first day
- Don’t ignore that there may be a personal struggle with retiring Leaders
If done well, leadership transitions in any organization can be well executed and supported. If done well, your business, its culture and your teams will weather the uncertainty and change.
As Automotive Hall of Famer Jim Moran says, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it.”
About Jane Halford
Jane is driven to help organizations and leaders achieve their goals. By leveraging her experience as a CEO, board member, entrepreneur, and Chartered Accountant, Jane brings a breadth of experience to individuals and teams she works with.
Through her business, Halford Consulting, Jane serves organizations through a range of services focused on leadership and governance transition through in-person and virtual training, advisory services, and professional speaking
Jane is currently an active board member of Farm Credit Canada (Chair, $41B federal crown corporation), Alpha Phenomics (Chair, agriculture technology start-up), and the Sawridge Group of Companies (stewards the business assets for the benefit of the Sawridge Cree First Nation Trust). Her past board roles include organizations in the non-profit, public, and stock exchange-listed entity sectors.
Connect with Jane at www.halford.co
LI – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jane-halford-fca-icd-d-33a51213/
FB – https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=halford%20consulting%20inc.
YT – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJA6HhohiAZDsJLS0buVqDA
TW – https://twitter.com/JaneHalford7