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A new CEO is going to be named. What do you do?

Setting the stage for a new leader takes a great deal of effort, but you only get one chance to make a good first impression


A CEO transition requires a 360-degree plan. (Syda Productions/Adobe Stock)

When a new leader is appointed, there is a flurry of activity.

Meetings are set up; introductions are to be made; customers’ and employees’ confidence is on the line and the brand’s reputation rests on the first impressions of the new captain at the helm.

Leaders don’t have the luxury of excusing themselves for being new in the role as they ramp up to learn their new business. Instead, they are expected to know the lay of the land and have a vision for success.

To make this transition seamless, a thoughtful, information-rich, 360-degree onboarding plan needs to be developed, applied and executed based on the executive’s vision.

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With teams working full tilt in the lead-up to the announcement of a new leader — sometimes under an interim leader or no clear leader at all, it’s difficult to muster the foresight and vision to plan for a thorough orientation of a new leader, but it is the only way to make the transition smooth and raise the confidence of every key stakeholder of the business.

The three-month transition plan

The first 90 days are critical. Visibility, communication and direction are of the utmost importance.

Employees want to connect with their leader, understand and share in their vision; customers want to trust the brand and feel confidence in the product or service; and shareholders want to hear that there is a smart thoughtful plan for the company.

While the leader is crafting the vision, an experienced team needs to be working just as diligently on the onboarding plan.

Staff meetings, town halls, key customer events, office visits, analyst briefings, shareholder events and media interviews are examples of the types of first impression meetings that need to be strategically timed, planned with adequate advance briefing, and delivered in the first 90 days to introduce and establish the individual in their new role and set the stage for success with the company.

Tips to set up the first 90 days for success

  • assign a clear point person or small working group to oversee the onboarding plan
  • work closely with your communications team to define a clear narrative for your new executive
  • meet with the CEO and get a sense of their leadership style, personality and build a plan that reflects their personal brand
  • define the clear goal for this critical time period and what needs to be accomplished
  • every meeting should have a clear objective, the answer to why you are doing it and what a success looks like
  • plan each week with a target that ladders up to the goal
  • stick to the plan (everyone has competing priorities); if your plan is solid see it through
  • avoid saying no to requests that do not fit the plan, but be clear when they can be accommodated to appease requests and protect the executives reputation while keeping you on track with your 90-day plan
  • communicate what you plan to do, what you are doing and what you have done every step of the way.

To effectively deliver a successful onboarding plan, the leader needs to prepare through briefings, media readiness, coaching and research.

A comprehensively onboarded leader knows what the first 90 days look like; what the must-do meetings are versus the nice to do; what a primary priority is and what is secondary; and has a clear plan to build their reputation both internally and externally to align with and strengthen the brand.

Setting the stage for a new leader takes a great deal of effort, but you only get one chance to make a good first impression with employees, customers, media, shareholders and the community.

Everything you do in the first 90 days will pay dividends and allow for greater collaboration, improve sales, garner more support for the organization, and positively contribute to the entire organization.

Crystal Hyde is a professional certified coach in Waterloo, Ont., and founder of Propel Leadership Coaching, which specializes in consultative coaching for executives, teams and emerging leaders.