Now that you have been introduced to what life as a first-time CEO has in store, here are three recommendations for emerging CEOs:
- Build, develop and lead through your leadership team
Building their leadership team has always been an important part of the CEO job; but the composition and purpose of this team is changing as businesses themselves take on a wider understanding of their purpose.
Traditionally a CEO’s goal was to develop a “high performing team,” in which each member was responsible for a different function that created value for investors and customers. But thanks to a growing emphasis on Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) considerations, today’s leadership team must now serve a wider caste of stakeholders than its predecessors. Employees, for example, are now considered primary and equal stakeholders to investors and customers. Similarly, many investors are now evaluating companies based on their social and environmental relationships with the communities in which they operate.
As a result, modern CEOs need to build “high value creating” teams, in which success is measured by the team’s ability to create simultaneous value for a broad array of stakeholders. A side effect of this widened imperative is that success is no longer measured by looking at how individual members of the leadership team execute their individual functions. Instead, a successful leadership team has to work interactively, across functions, to ensure that it represent the interests of (and creates value for) all stakeholders.
For first-time or new CEOs, building a value-creating leadership team—and making sure that you get the right people on it—is crucial to your ability to focus broadly across the needs of the organization and to increase value by steering company purpose and culture. But it is not easy to do. A Systemic Leadership Team coach can be invaluable in helping the CEO build, lead and motivate the perfect team.
- Build informal relationships with individual board members
The board can be an excellent source of guidance for CEOs, and newly appointed CEOs should go out of their way to build informal relationships with individual board members who can provide the advice, feedback, and support that CEOs often fail to receive from other members of their organizations.
But building these relationships can be harder than it sounds. Your board members, after all, do not work in the office down the hall; they may not even live in the same country. This is why close relationships between CEOs and board members rarely just fall into place like they often do between CEOs and key members of the leadership team. Instead, building relationships with board members often requires conscious effort. New CEOs will need to go out of their way to creatively engage their directors on a regular basis outside of the formal strictures of the boardroom.
- Work with a coach
Executive coaches are an excellent resource for first-time CEOs. As neutral third-party observers, coaches provide the kind of constructive feedback and skills training that CEOs, as bosses, often struggle to get from their team members. They also help CEOs improve their skills in conflict management, responsibility delegation, time management, and listening—all of which are necessary for new CEOs to successfully adapt to the role.
The purpose of executive coaching is to increase performance by improving emotional intelligence, which leads to a more empathic and self-aware leader. Even the best CEOs can get better at their jobs. Some of the most influential CEOs in the last decades—Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt among them—have benefited tremendously from executive coaching.
The CEO job can be one of the most rewarding jobs in business. It is also unquestionably one of the most difficult. Incoming first-time CEOs should expect the role to bring a variety of changes to their lives, most of them positive, some of them negative, others downright confusing. By surrounding yourself with trusted advisors, by consulting mentors, and by hiring a coach, both new and seasoned CEOs can minimize their isolation and get the feedback they need for success.