CEO and team rapport


There may be a necessity or organizational requirement when an outsider CEO has to take charge of operations. His prime task starts with tackling internal dissent and gain the trust of his team right from the senior most to junior level.

The chances of the body rejecting a new organ are extremely high. It’s much the same thing when a new CEO is appointed. The team may decide not to
Co-operate with a new man at the helm. A CEO from outside when he inherits a team that is less than perfect, resistant to change, or just plain un-cooperative has a lot of initiatives on hand to be taken.

It is very lonely at the top. Let us take the case of GK who was brought in from a multinational corporation to engineer a major turnaround. From Day One the team viewed him with mistrust and didn’t listen to him at all.

The reason was simple; there were two other managers also contending for the top job. Both resented the fact that an outsider was chosen over them.

The problem is not peculiar to CEOs hired from outside. In companies where an insider is promoted to the top job, he is slightly better off because he is familiar with the ways of the company. But he may still face the ire of others who were in the race. An internal CEO has grown up with his peers who were his equals till a while ago. That makes it tough for him to assert authority,

A lot hinges on the first 90 days one spends in office. This is when, he says, CEOs ought to put their people into one of the three silos. Are they partners for growth? Are they capable but dissenters? And finally, are they plain incompetent, but dissenting nevertheless? The last class is the one a CEO ought to bother about most.

Having done that, a CEO needs to slowly convince and align the dissenters by explaining his point of view to them and understanding theirs. It is easier for people to buy into a vision rather than a person.

No new CEO has the opportunity to lie low and figure out how things will shape up. They need to quickly form a core team, of people who are able and willing to drive change. What it means is simple: the core team buys into the idea and in turn, each member has his or her set of key people. That way, the goal is communicated all the way down the ranks, with hopefully everyone buying into the idea. This core team doesn’t necessarily mean senior-level people alone.

It is important to notch up some early success. They help establish CEO credibility and cut through the dissent. For instance, when the outside CEO was hired, the business was doing badly. In the middle of all this, the old CEO, who was fairly popular with the people, had quit. The new CEO had virtually nothing going for him. Soon after he took over, he took some hard stances to set things right. This could mean even small things like exceeding targets in one month’s sales or launching a new product. It showed the people that he meant business,

New CEOs often hire a few key people from outside, usually from their previous organization. This is to ‘cushion’ their transition into a new job. The CEO is already aware of their capabilities and working styles, he can use them to drive the change agenda in the absence of support from the existing team.

Opinion is divided on whether getting people from outside is a good idea in the first place. In the new scheme of things, this is not what every leader can pull off. There is no point hiring unless these people are bringing in a specific capability that existing personnel don’t otherwise have.

New outside MD of a bulk chemicals manufacturer who saw his company through a major transition soon after he joined thinks that in such a situation one needs to bring in people from outside. But it has to be done sequentially and not at a time so that others don’t feel threatened.

Despite the new guy’s best efforts, there often are 2-3 people who still continue to be ‘disruptors’. This is more common in older organizations where these people create serious resistance. If despite all efforts to align them, they don’t change, they have to be told to leave.

This has to be done carefully. For instance the person may be great at resolving labor issues. In a manufacturing set-up, losing him could be fatal. More importantly, assess the impact whether he is an opinion leader and his exit prompt other loyalists to quit. If so they are indispensable.

Taking over the reigns often turns out to be nightmare for a new CEO. His biggest challenge, as it turns out to be, is not external market conditions, but the team he inherits from his predecessor. The actions suggested above may be a few solutions to the assistance of the outside CEO. He can also think and implement better ways as the need demands.