Reporting to a New CEO? 6 “Must Do’s” to Ensure You Survive & Thrive!

Exclusive Interview with:

First, the Facts:

• If you are a sr. executive in any global company—you have about a 25% chance you will be reporting to a new CEO this year.

• If you are a sr. exec in one of the global 2500 public companies, you have a 15% chance of reporting to a new CEO this year.

• Your new CEO likely arrived as part of a planned transition—either retirement or voluntary resignation (66%)

• Your new CEO is less likely to have arrived as a result of an unplanned transition—either termination or as a result of an M & A (33%)

• You have a 22% chance that your new CEO is an outsider; outsider CEO hiring has increased a lot since 2007 when it accounted for 14% of the new CEO hiring.

• Your chances of surviving the hiring of an outsider CEO, is significantly less than surviving an insider. Your probability of being fired more than doubles with an outsider. Even surviving an insider hire…is a challenge. Termination rates go up 65% as compared to keeping your current CEO. Outsiders are rarely hired when the company is doing well; when the company is not doing well—all bets are off!

• Approximately, 75% of my senior executive coaching assignments involve me helping C-Level executives successfully navigate and lead during times of transition.

So, the Questions I Most Hear from Senior Executives:

• Should I be worried? Answer: YES
• What will happen if I get pushed out? Only 4% will land in a better position; 28% will move laterally; 68% will land in smaller companies, lesser roles, or disappear.
• If I do stay, how do I survive and thrive?

The 6 “Must Do’s” to Survive and Thrive:

1. Understand the New CEO’s Mindset

• They want/need to succeed
• They want/need a strong team of sr. executives (individually and collectively)
• They will determine their “allies” and “rivals” quickly…first few weeks
• They want their allies for all key roles; they will remove “rivals”
• They will experience isolation and pressure like never before.

2. Do You Possess Enough of the “3 C’s” They Want?

Your new CEO is looking at three things when they look at you: (1) Are you Capable (i.e., Do you possess the requisite “can do”); (2) Are you Committed (i.e., do you possess the requisite “will do”) and; (3) Are you Connected (i.e., do you possess the requisite “must do”). They want to know if you are competent enough, motivated enough, and aligned enough with them and their vision to add value to them and the organization.

They will assess, guess at, and most often use their instincts to measure the health and vibrancy of your “3 C’s”……quickly. They need to. They will get input from others like board members, even trying to get input from your peers, and websites/social media, to help them form an opinion about you and your “3 C’s” to make a determination if you possess enough of what they are looking for.

Expect that in most instances that your reputation will precede you. Therefore, I coach executives and tell them flat out that they make a lot of money, and have a nice title, and own a beautiful home…but in the end, you have nothing if you don’t have a positive “brand”. Unfortunately, executives who don’t understand this, often seal their negative fate in CEO transitions. The greatest survival technique for any executive is to work hard every day to strengthen and polish their character, values, reputation and brand. Were you more capable today than yesterday? Were you more committed? Were you more connected? If the answer is yes to these questions, it is more likely that your new CEO will already know this.

Tell the new CEO that you want to be on their team and then prove it; don’t assume they know this (by the way, it is rare for a senior executive to state this to their new CEO and this is a big mistake).

When they accept the CEO role, congratulate them with a phone call, not an email (by the way, this is rarely done and this is a big mistake).

3. Help the New CEO Form an Informed and Correct Opinion of Your “3 C’s” (Value)

• Call them and congratulate them
• Assume they already have an opinion of your “3 C’s” (Value)
• Assume their opinion of you is incorrect; at the very least—incomplete.
• Don’t wait….take the initiative in setting up an early meeting so you can share more about who you are, how you think, and what you do (responsibilities). Use examples to show your “3 C’s”. BE DESCRIPTIVE/NOT PRESCRIPTIVE (It is huge mistake to start making recommendations and stating your agenda). Your agenda is not important right now. The CEO’s agenda is all that counts right now.
• Demonstrate your character: courage, diligence, gratitude, honesty, loyalty, modesty. Your character will determine your destiny. So, you must prove that you are a leader of character…..make sure you demonstrate your strong character and values the first time you meet.
• Your new CEO wants to know that you can make him/her more Capable, Committed and Connected as the new CEO. Can you quickly prove that you can help your new boss successful?
• Keep the “Noise” out of the meeting. Now is not the time to be negative about anything—compensation, conflicts with the past CEO or other executives, is the “kiss of death”. Keep it positive!

4. Learn the New CEO’s Style & Agenda

• Don’t assume anything. You don’t know their working style or philosophy, so you need to ask them (CEO’s love this)…ask them:
–What has shaped them and their leadership style?
–What advice or theme do they live their life by?
–What is their greatest professional accomplishment?
• What would they consider their greatest leadership gifts?
• What are they working on?
• Suggestions they have for you so you can work with them in a positive, productive way to help the CEO achieve their objectives?
• Avoid this mistake at all costs: Don’t treat the new CEO the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they want to be treated.

5. Learn the CEO’s New Agenda/Mission/Vision

• General Plan next 30, 60, and 90 days.
• Ask them what you can do to help them.
• Once you have a solid foundation of who they are and their vision, start moving in a more “prescriptive” direction (this takes time). Remember, this is like medicine: Yes, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice and again, is the “kiss of death”.
• Offer objective, honest and realistic plans in light of new agenda. Again, show your character.
• Admit that some previous decisions that were made likely need to be re-evaluated in light of the new vision (It is a big mistake not to show humility, your ability to be agile and course correct as needed).

6. Re-Assess Your “3 C’s” in Quiet Moments
If you believe you are moving away from your character, values and who you are based on the new vision—have the guts to bring it up and discuss it. Most CEO’s have enormous respect for this openness. Don’t be too quick to bring this to the CEO but use your instincts. It is always best to negotiate an out strategy when there is mutual respect and trust.

©, published on May 11, 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Fascinating Interviews and Insights from Our Speakers:


Need help filling the seats at your next meeting / event?

Call us / email us / check availability and fee for your favorite speaker.

Get in touch
Call us: (760) 656-8770
Toll free in the US: (877) 717-5327