Succeeding As A Successor
by Teena Rose of Résumé to Referral http://www.resumebycprw.com.
It is perhaps one of the
most challenging and exciting executive jobs to hold: filling a position where
others have failed. How do you go about succeeding where your predecessors have
failed? By applying some common sense, using effective communication techniques,
and learning from past mistakes--both theirs and your own.
Avoid Past Mistakes
Your predecessors failed in one or
more areas, yet the CEO and the Board expects you to follow in similar
footsteps. They may expect that because they don't know your predecessor failed.
You may have inherited a time bomb, while you predecessor wisely took a massive
severance and jumped ship. Or your predecessor may have instituted plans that
simply did not adequately address known problems. Those plans sounded good, so
you're expected to follow the same wrong trajectory.
How do you handle this situation? It
can be difficult to contradict the views of senior management. However, your job
is to create the turnaround situation that others before you were unable
accomplish. If previous methods proved ineffective, yet are the company norm,
you need to assert yourself as the expert.
There is more than one way to
contradict expectations, but all require tact. If you have been hired to perform
a turnaround, a gentle reminder of this may be all you need to do. Senior
management chose you following an executive search or through an executive
recruiter for a reason. Defer to your executive resume, past accomplishments,
and turnaround record.
Change is difficult, even when current practices aren't working. People are more comfortable with known factors,
and this includes CEOs and Board members. The "known" may be losing money, but
it is familiar. Understand that resistance to change is simply normal human
behavior. And it can blind people to the
facts. They need persuasion.
Use research to assert
your position. If you come from previous turnaround situations, use examples
from similar circumstances. Provide numbers for senior management. Present these
simply and and make them easy to understand. When the information is in black
and white, it is easier to accept. Offer a variety of scenarios forecasting
different outcomes, including those that did not succeed in the past. You can
make your case much more effectively when you have concrete information to back
Show That You're on the
You're the new kid on the
block. So, others may view you as a threat. Make the effort to get to know your
new colleagues and demonstrate how you fit in. People are more comfortable and
trusting with others who are like they are. If you are able to show that you are
not there simply to shake things up, but are genuinely interested in creating
meaningful change, you will find cooperation rather than resistance. Your CEO
and Board are no exception to this rule.
When you enter an
executive job where people before you have failed, others may see this as a
reflection on themselves. What CEO may not feel a twinge of failure when
choosing a string of poor leaders? As you seek to make change, it is at times
necessary to do so gently. You need to be "one of the team," not someone who
sits there and passes judgment. Be patient as you work to gain the trust of your
colleagues and decide which changes you need to do now and which you can
implement gradually. You're here for the long haul. Make this known. But don't
do it with a "you can't run me off" challenge. That will only get you run off.
Do it by showing you respect your colleagues and you care about their future.
The more you build relationships by listening to others, the more you
communicate your interest in the long term.
Determine What's Best
for the Company
As the expert, it's your
responsibility to determine what is best for the company--even if this goes
against the opinions of senior management. While some changes should be done
gradually, others need to be avoided completely or undertaken in a more
effective way. That is, choose your battles. You can't win them all. Trying to
do that will cost you the war.
When you find yourself in
a situation where you must disagree with top executives, make your case as best
you can. Understanding that your suggestions may not be accepted.
Again, solid research is
key. If you don't have the numbers to support your position, there's no point
bringing it up in the first place. However, if you have the strategy and the
numbers, move forward and utilize effective communication techniques to present
Remember that everyone
takes his or her opinions seriously. So do not state that the other way of doing
business is wrong. For one thing, this is a direct attack on anyone who was
implemental in doing it the other way. For another, you may end up doing it that
way after all. You'll need the support of your team members.
opinion as valid before showing why you believe your way of doing things is
better. That doesn't mean uttering a platitude like, "Everyone's opinion is
important" and then behaving as though only your opinion matters. It means
showing you value the opinions of others. Listen, ask non judgmental questions,
and ask people to tell you the strengths and weaknesses of their opinion. Say
things like, "Help me understand."
People aren't so much tied
to their opinions as they are tied to the need to be heard. So, hear what they
have to say--before you tell them what you have to say. You may need to ask some
people to skip all of the details and give you the essentials, or you will never
get through this process. Make it clear that you want to know how things work
and why they are done that way. Then, you want to work with your team to make
Demonstrate why this
method is best for the company. Draw on ideas and comments given when you were
listening to others, previously. Show how individuals have a stake in the
outcome. For example, "I think if John could reduce that invoicing cycle, he'd
be a much happier camper. Is that right, John?"
When people can relate to
change on a personal level, they are much more likely to cooperate. Show how
your method will benefit all involved and the company as a whole. Put the
information into perspective. Use examples. Show the numbers.
Finally, learn from your
own mistakes. After all, everyone makes mistakes. Now you can benefit from
When presenting a new way
of doing things, for example, communicate your own failings in the past,
particularly if they relate to how your predecessors did things. Your new
colleagues will see that you don't have an air of arrogance, that you don't
consider yourself infallible. They will see that you have made and learned from
your own failures.
Because of this, they will
be much more inclined to trust and believe you. One easy way to explain that a
plan is not best for the company is to use personal examples of how you found a
better solution to the problem in the past. If you found that because someone
else finally got it through your thick skull, then that's all the better. Tell
your story, including any anecdotes about just how hard-headed you were at the
time and how you are glad you finally listened. If your story involves how
someone else was hard-headed, then leave that part out--it only makes you look
like you have a superiority complex.
The bottom line is
building trust. As the turnaround person in a new executive job, you must earn
the trust of your colleagues--from the Board to the CEO to senior management.
This will create a trickle-down effect, but you must start at the top. If the
Board does not have faith in you, there's no reason to expect anyone else in the
Building trust takes
patience and time. Do everything in your power to build trust and the doors of
progress will open to you.
Teena Rose operates a prominent and
professional resume writing service, Resume to Referral.
She’s authored several career
books, including "20-Minute
Cover Letter Fixer",
to Design, Write, and Compile a Quality Brag Book",
and "Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales."
Teena Rose, CPRW, CEIP, CCM
Resume to Referral
7211 Taylorsville Road, Office 208
Huber Heights, OH 45424
Phone: (937) 236-1360
Fax: (937) 236-1351