Ascending to the C-suite
A new survey finds that executives who move effectively into the C-suite are communicating priorities, valuing their teams, spending time on culture, and understanding their unique leadership role.
While there is no single predictor of success in a new role, the responses indicate which practices link most closely to an overall effective transition. Organization-wide alignment, for example, is critical. Executives who made the most successful transitions say it was just as important to align their organizations on what not to do as it was to explain what they would do in their initial agendas. They relied more than others on their initial team of direct reports and spent more time learning about organizational culture, which all executives rate as the hardest area to understand. What’s more, these executives received more support and resources from their organizations and were better able to spend their time and energy understanding the issues that they were in a unique position to influence.
Be purposeful. The four aspects of an executive transition—business, culture, team, and self—require different tools and resources to successfully engage with each one. New executives might face a bias to focus disproportionately on issues that receive external scrutiny (delivering short-term business results, for example). But they must think holistically about their new responsibilities and identify the nuances of each aspect so they can take purposeful action. Crafting a clear vision of strategic priorities, building their teams in a timely way, rigorously assessing the organization’s culture, and spending enough time to prepare for the personal demands of the job will all be essential to success in a new role.
Create organizational support. The results suggest that executives who make the most successful transitions received important resources and information from their companies. Yet, in our experience, few organizations have established internal capabilities or ownership for the transition process. Given the high price organizations pay for every failed transition, more of them should develop a systematic approach to support new leaders. The most successful approaches we’ve seen blend in-class learning with other interventions, such as personal coaching for the first 6 to 12 months on the job.