The First 3 Things Any New CEO Should Do
“Hit the ground running.”
That’s the ideal for any new CEO. Your team expects it. Your investors expect it. Your board expects it. So of course you do, too.
But that’s not quite how it usually works. Even if this isn’t your first time in the C-suite.
As the new CEO, you have a tremendous opportunity to shape the direction of the firm and lead it to its next level of BIG growth. Obsessing over an arbitrary speed goal, like 90 or 100 days, is just a way to spin your wheels and lose sight of what matters.
To help map out how you can succeed as a new CEO, we tapped three of our top coaches who come from years of executive leadership experience. Here are their strategies to win BIG from the beginning:
1. Focus on vision first
This is an exciting time in the company. Everyone wants to know, “What’s next? What are we going to do?” Now that you’re the CEO, it’s your job to answer those questions.
You don’t have to have a multi-year plan right away, but you should start with your goals for the firm a year from now and work backwards from there. To build an annual plan, think about:
- What does it look like at the company a year from now? Think people, processes, customer satisfaction, and cash flow.
- What adjustments do you need to make to get moving in the right direction?
“It’s really easy to get early wins,” says coach Ramona Cappello, serial entrepreneur. “And then, all of a sudden, it’s really hard to keep that momentum going if you don’t have the right kinds of steps in place. A lot of times you’ll walk into a business and they may not even know how they got to where they are, so when things slow down, they don’t know what drove it.”
If you’re stuck, take a look at our Crystal Ball exercise. It can help reframe what strategy looks like and how to make those big bets to get there.
Remember, be BIG in your vision. Incremental thinking will get you incremental results.
2. Ask tough questions
This may be a big change for you, but an even bigger change for your team. Real growth means getting a little uncomfortable, so start with getting them on board. That means setting up time with your direct team, but also getting to know as many people as you can.
“As a leader, I want to hear everybody’s point of view,” says coach John Fadool. “I want to hear what the manufacturing person feels about the marketing plan. And I want to hear how the marketing person feels about the HR plan, and how the HR person feels about the finance plan. No one person holds the truth. If we’re all standing around a house on the outside and we’re looking inside, there’s a lot of things that we all see, but then there’s other things that only one person sees because of their perspective.”
Start the conversation by asking these tough questions:
- What am I doing now that I would stop doing if I was competing with my company?
- What am I not doing now that I would start doing in my new company?
- If I were a competitor, how would I put my company out of business?
Old habits and practices can be hard to break, even bad ones. It’s your job as the new CEO to shake things up. Ask your team what they would do differently if they were trying to compete with your company. Maybe what’s standing between your business and BIG growth is right in front of them, but they’re too close to see the problem.
3. Never stop learning
Even the best CEOs are still human, susceptible to blind spots, biases, extreme optimism, self-doubt, and paralyzing fear. As you transition to your new position, now is a great time to evaluate how you operate and what you need to do to improve.
- “What do I need to get up to or stay up to speed on?
- What knowledge can I outsource versus what do I have to know myself?
- How can I build learning time into my already busy schedule?
It doesn’t need to be multi-hour study sessions. Giving yourself five minutes to noodle on an idea or think about something in a new way can be the creative spark you need.
“These are all really simple practices,” says coach Meghan Watkins, “but it’s important that they’re repeated consistently. It’s just critical that we stop working inside the business and, as leaders, work on the business. That’s when you see that magic happen.”
Working with a CEO coach is what pulls this process together. Whether they’re facilitating your planning session or holding your feet to the fire when numbers are lagging, a coach who’s been there and done that has the experience and the outside perspective you need to stick to the system, maintain momentum and keep Making BIG Happen.
Learn more with our free eBook, Win BIG as a New CEO
This five-step playbook is designed to help you hit the ground running. It’s filled with the wisdom and insights from our world-class coaches, all former CEOs who know what it’s like to join or start a new organization and say, “Now what?”
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.