The appointment of any leader to a new role is a watershed moment in both an executive’s life and the life of an organization. Yet while there is great energy and attention given to the selection of that leader, there is another part of the equation that is equally important: making sure that the leader is actually prepared to succeed in that role. The first 100 days are critical — so critical that a bad start can doom an executive, no matter how experienced and ready. We must focus on the transition of that new leader, regardless of whether he or she is an internal or external hire.
This is where we come in. At Egon Zehnder, we have had a dedicated Accelerated Integration Practice — exclusively focused on helping new leaders adjust to their new roles — since 2009. Since then, we have been retained to support the transitions of more than 500 leaders, many of them CEOs, in more than 30 countries in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Our experience has shown that Accelerated Integration can as much as halve the time it takes new leaders to reach their full effectiveness — leading directly to bottom-line results.
Our work begins the moment we enter a dialogue with an executive preparing for a transition, working with them to identify the opportunities and risks involved. We also help companies communicate and explain their choice and prepare leaders for their coming role. For more-senior leaders, we may recommend that they attend our Executive Breakthrough Program to help fill in gaps and build the personal awareness necessary for a top C-suite role. Then, long before the new executive’s first day, we work with them to make the strongest possible initial impact. We help them understand the current company culture. We run through the key stakeholders they will need to deal with, and their personalities. We also review the expectations placed on them by their line manager and/or the board. With them we think through the implications of those expectations and how they can best communicate what they are there to do. We also reflect with them on the potential pitfalls of the job and tactics to anticipate and prevent them.
In the first 30 days, we work on “building momentum,” using personalized coaching to help the executive learn how to build trust in his or her team and to shape first impressions. We then focus on "accelerating impact," continuing to work closely on their transition well into the third month and often longer. This includes coaching, 360-degree evaluation, and targeted feedback, all focused on helping the leader make the strongest initial traction in the organization and ensuring that they course-correct quickly if needed. Above all, we seek to guard against the complacency we see in many organizations, where there is an assumption that the high caliber of talent they have chosen for a senior role will be sufficient to master any issues posed by what are often increasingly challenging transitions. Ensuring in this way that a senior appointment makes the best possible initial impact is seen as a wise investment by the more thoughtful and performance-oriented companies across a wide variety of sectors, sizes, and countries.