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Chief Executive Officers

New CEOs Adapt Strategies and Teams to Tackle Change Amid Continuing Crisis

Highlights from a recent digital gathering with new external successor Chief Executive Officers, hosted by Egon Zehnder

  • October 2020

New external successor Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are assessing the best next strategic steps to implement fundamental change and how to rejig existing teams as they move to the next stage of the pervading pandemic, they reveal to Egon Zehnder during recent digital gatherings.

Adapting to a changing future

Despite the continuing challenges presented by the corona crisis, new CEOs have been buoyed by some better than expected quarterly results, as they start to make their mark on the business. At the same time, many CEOs are becoming aware that corona is far from over and as a result are implementing new working methods to meet goal posts that have shifted since they took over the job.

Need to rejig existing teams

New CEOs have so far worked with existing teams to navigate the crisis. As the immediate impact of the crisis eases, many recognize the need to change team members to overcome performance deficits and address new challenges. “I’m carrying several members of the team but need to find several high performers instead, who’ll quickly integrate,” declares one leader.

Inevitably, it will be difficult to manage those team changes, considering how intensively people have worked over recent months, concede leaders. But by mixing up teams and adding new people, CEOs can break the existing hierarchy and raise the organization to a higher level. This disruption can firstly trigger new ideas and more importantly, enable greater agility.

And agility remains essential during these challenging times. As one CEO admits, “The agility required to manage the volatility of our consumer business, which is changing from one month to the next, and to manage the variability of the demand pattern is unbelievable.”

Communication, communication, communication

By this time, CEOs are starting to feel the pain of not yet meeting employees and customers face to face, as they struggle with the finite limitations of virtual meetings. Nevertheless, leaders are doing their utmost to deepen relationships with their team, and provide them with the necessary amount of care and attention, despite not being able to meet in person.

As soon as it’s possible, CEOs suggest making the effort to meet in person with employees, which makes it easier to subsequently meet online. One CEO, who recently visited an office to meet a newly hired senior executive, declares that he made more progress in the bonding process and exchanging of ideas during their 90-minute interaction than he had in 10 weeks of virtual meetings with others.

Despite the communication challenges, new CEOs can overall feel reassured by a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel as they address problems presented by the crisis and adapt to an ever-evolving role in an ever-changing world.

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