LONDON — It seems to be catching. But it has actually been going on forever. The departure of a CEO gets business journalists all twitchy with glee. So the stories get written like detective novels:
It was a dark night, and she was feeling darker than the dark side of Venus…
It’s exciting for the journalists, and maybe even the readers, but it’s just plain rotten for the business, its employees, partners, customers and shareholder. The music seems to have stopped and there’s a collective in-take of breath while everyone waits to see who has a seat.
It’s clear the new CEO — whenever they are named — has a lot to do. And we certainly have some ideas on how they personally ‘show leadership’. But the business itself must respond. And that response is not all down to the new leader.
HEAD — What are the thoughts that you want people to have? How can people intellectualise the change? What are the concerns that people will have?
You need to explain, manage, plan and deliver ideas and answers that. Focusing on the business realities is a good place to start. Remind people what you do, why you do it, and why you are very good at it.
Too much thinking will make people stop working. It’s not hard to find examples of businesses that get excited about change and immediately lose profits.
HANDS — There is also a tendency to stop working until the new CEO arrives. What is she doesn’t like this project? Will anyone know if we don’t complete this? It was the old guy’s pet project.
So there is a really, really great need for existing management, right down to line managers, to get people back to work. Projects need to be completed. No deadlines should be missed.
What better way to impress the new boss than to actually be running smoothly when he or she arrives?
HEART — It may sound counter-intuitive, but change at the top can be a good time to increase the commitment of people to the business. What is it that brings me into work again? Is it the senior guys in the big offices? Is it the compelling speech from the HR Director or the CIO?
It’s probably because I like what I do and get satisfaction out of doing it well. The ability to stop worrying about the change, to focus on work and actually get lots of stuff done will only improve that. So when people are seeing changes at the top it can actually increase their motivation.
Long-time readers will not need me to say this next bit. But here I go:
Hosting company picnics, giving out t-shirts, having a rally, or extra holiday… to celebrate a change at the top… will not (that’s NOT) help the business to succeed.
But you knew that already.