We keep on top of new CEO announcements and what we can learn about CEOs' first 100 days or so. When we meet with new CEOs, we like to provide recent best practices and new ideas. Was recently reading about a new CEO at a healthcare company who set a different tone by not using the chauffeured SUV the previous CEO used and downsizing the CEO's office staff. But more interesting, the new CEO took questions from the cafeteria as he went on his employee listening tour. What a great message. Instead of putting a hold on a large conference room for a town hall meeting, the cafeteria (if you have one) can send the perfect message. Cafeterias are like the town square or village green after all. People run into people they have not seen in a while or find themselves chatting with someone they have not met. It is familiar to everyone, from the mail room to the corner office. I also think CEOs who have cafeterias should spend more time there getting their food on a tray, paying for it like everyone else and sitting at a table with people he or she might know. And just shooting the breeze. Plenty to talk about these days -- deflated footballs, the weather and new TV shows. And just think of all those selfies you can take with the CEO!
I am not sure why this fascinates me but it does. See below. It must have to do with me being intensely curious about what is on CEOs' minds. I also think it is a great example for others to follow about doing something every year that adds value to one's work and personal life. Let's hope that more female-authored books make the list since I read elsewhere that many of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's literary tastes, judging from his Facebook page, run mostly to nonfiction works written by men.
All of this reminds me of a few CEO examples. I recall a CEO who started a book club among his senior management team so they could all expand their horizons together. And when I was at my prior agency, our terrific CEO Chris Komisarjevsky used to give us books when we had our management team dinners. I found that gesture very meaningful because it reinforced the importance of ideas which was always on his agenda for the firm. Additionally, the books served as signals about what we should be thinking about to succeed as a team.
So Zuckerberg's 2015 resolution is a good one. The other day I was talking to a communications person about the First 100 Days of their new CEO and told him a story about a new CEO who was somewhat worried that when he showed up at HQ to park his car that he'd see a sea of same cars in the parking lot. I bet many Facebook employees are following Zuckerberg's book lead.
We all know about boards choosing "insider" or "outsider" CEOs as successors. For years, there's been debates about which is better and usually insider CEOs take the lead. I used to track CEO succession when I started my first blog ever, www.ceogo.com. We were one of the first firms to track the comings and goings of CEOs, reasons why and CEOs' average tenure. At the time, we defined insider CEOs as executives who had worked inside the company for three or more years before being announced as the new CEO. Outsider CEOs were defined as executives who either had never worked for the company or had been employed by the company for less than three years before being announced CEO. Of course, all of this is predicated on the premise that the board has a succession process in place in the first place. But sorry to have to break the news but two-thirds of American public and private companies have no such plan (National Association of Corporate Directors). A professor at Harvard Business School, Joseph Bower, now recommends that boards of directors pay attention to "insider-outsiders," that is, strong candidates who know enough about the company to ensure continuity but also have outside experience from having spent time at other companies or at a non-HQ office fairly far from the center. In other words, someone who is not tainted by "head-office group think." At least these individuals wont be totally insular from having spent their entire careers at the company and they will be a mash up of internal and external perceptions so that they can bring new thinking into the fold. Considering that Millennials switch jobs so often (last I heard was that we can expect 11 different jobs in a career path), we might actually see a new wave of young CEOs who have spent time at several different companies before bedding down with one institution for more than a few short years. Time will tell but thought the idea of an insider-outsider was a new twist.
McKinsey just issued an interview with Pieter Nota who runs Philips' Consumer Lifestyle sector. The article was about his first 100 days at Philips and how he turned around the unit. In the interview, the author provided insights into Nota's off-sites for his senior team and how they incorporated "courageous conversations" where team members got their gripes out on the table and then collectively resolved the conflicts constructively. Or as the article says, turned the negative energy into positive energy.
But the lesson learned was an exercise that Nota built into a second off-site a few years into his tenure which I think could work well at senior management off sites that new CEOs often hold. The off-site started off with lots of blue sky collaboration on where the future of their business could possibly go. And here's the kicker that just entranced me because it's such a good idea. The day ended with a brainstorm on "the ten excuses we could use two years from now for not having made the aspiration a reality." The team addressed each excuse head on and committed themselves to not using the excuses to explain away why they did not turn their dreams into reality down the road. A great exercise for many of us. I can already think of excuses that I use as to why I can't do one thing or another. And applying it to teams is just brilliant to create greater ownership.
I am going to add this Top 10 Excuses brainstorming idea to any counsel I give.
New CEO announcements require considered thought. Everything must go right. It is a rite of passage for companies, their legacies and destiny. It is both a science and an art. I am always on the hunt for how they are done well, especially in our new social media environment where news of CEO-elects travel within nanoseconds. Don't kid yourself -- it is a pivotal point in an organization's history. A new CEO affects everyone as a new world order emerges. The organization must help the new CEO establish his or her reputation and legitimacy by starting off on the right foot. Leading up to the first 100 days -- often called the Countdown -- must be well planned (see my book, CEO Capital for more). Companies or organizations want to graciously thank the outgoing CEO or chairman and ring in the new with sincerity and strategic forethought. They will want to explain in a few sentences why the new leader was chosen from the rest, honor any rituals about how the company transitions to the future and set in motion the process for upcoming continuity and change.
Here's a sincere and strategically well-aligned new CEO announcement that fits the organization's mission and narrative. It smartly makes good use of today's technology and is engaging and real. The organization is Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. They announced a new CEO, Robert (Bob) Bonar Jr., who officially begins in two months. In addition to the picture of the new CEO on the home page, you can link to a statement from the board chair who welcomes the new CEO via text and video if you like. The text provides information on Bonar's background as well as well-deserved appreciation for the outgoing 12-year veteran CEO. There is also a bio and press kit.
But what's really worthwhile spending a few minutes of your time on is the hospital's video from kids about CEOs. It is really a delight and a smile-maker. The children appear to be patients at the hospital which draws you in even more and makes you think twice about all the good that hospitals do. The patient kids are asked questions like what C-E-O stands for? (A: Chimp Eating Oranges?), What CEOs do? (A: Direct people, watch TV), What should CEOs wear? (A: Skinny jeans, pajamas and a dude hat) and What would you do if you were CEO? (A: Get to know the kids, sharpen pencils, be respectful, hire magicians for all the kids).
An awesome CEO introduction.
Disclosure: (client of Weber Shandwick)
New CEO stories interest me greatly. I just read this one which I will copy and paste into my deck on what new CEOs can do to quickly take charge and build legitimacy. The story appeared in an article in The Economist about Unilever and its CEO Paul Polman. The article is mostly about Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan which is hard at work lessening its social and environmental impact. But how Polman came to the plan as a new CEO deserves retelling here:
"SLEEPING in the open on top of his mansion was a nightly routine for William Lever, founder of what is now Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch consumer-goods giant. When Paul Polman became chief executive of the soap-to-ice-cream-maker in 2009 (joining from a Swiss rival, Nestlé), the Dutchman spent a night in Lever’s rooftop bed as part of a total immersion in the history of his new firm. It helped persuade him, a year later, to launch a “Sustainable Living Plan”, the name for his attempt to make Unilever the pre-eminent example of how to do capitalism responsibly, just as it had once been under Lever."
Many CEOs go back in time to the foundation of the company hoping to find its greater purpose and truths that need to be upheld and repositioned for growth. This example of the new CEO of Unilever sleeping under the stars to uncover the company's true north is one for the books.
In New York City, we have a new mayor, Bill de Blasio. He has been interesting to watch, especially as he exited his first 100 days and is moving into the last quarter of his first year. [Also because he is from my Brooklyn neighborhood where is a local figure.]
But this article in The New York Times this week was written almost as a mid year round up and makes it clear that the new mayor is still trying to find his balance. From watching CEOs, the first year is one of reckonings too. De Blasio, like new CEOs, has many more constituencies to worry about now besides rallying the troops to get out the vote. The complexity of managing all those constituencies can be overwhelming and fraught with fault lines. As the mayor deals with racial tensions, police reform, availability of low income housing and budget constraints, he is disappointing the left who were his stalwart base. The alleged police-related death of Eric Garner on Staten Island does not help and heightens the scrutiny on the mayor's progress so far. The article interested me in particular because Bertha Lewis, former CEO of Acorn, is cited asking friends to give the mayor a full year before "discounting Mr. de Blasio as just another politician." From my work on CEO tenure, people begin to cement their impressions at about nine months. Luckily, mayors and CEOs do get a grace period when they first start but the mayor's next moves are critical to setting his legacy and reputation in stone.
Target announced its new CEO today. Brian Cornell is front and center on the Target blog and as you'd expect, wearing a red tie. He looks eager to get started. He is one of several features in the Target blog carousel so it is not reserved just for him. Smart choice since Target's customers (guests) are so important. An interview with Cornell falls right below his bright-eyed picture. He gets asked eight questions and of course the obligatory one about how moving to Minnesota from New York where he works at PepsiCo. It is pretty amazing that he is the first outsider CEO at Target which indicates that the company has been very homegrown and probably insular. I keep a list of questions that new CEOs get asked so I will add this to my list:
- You are the first CEO who has been hired from outside of Target. What are the benefits of coming in from the outside? What will be some of the challenges?
- You are arriving at Target with a strong background in grocery. Is that your passion and will that be an emphasis as you begin your new role?
- It’s been widely reported that Target needs to transform digitally. Do you think you bring the right background and experience to truly advance Target’s omnichannel efforts?
- Why did you decide to take on this role at Target? Are you a fan of the brand?
- As someone who has worked in retail, what’s been your impression of Target?
- What will your first day on the job look like (i.e. what will be your top priorities)?
- What’s your favorite thing about shopping at Target?
- What are you looking forward to most about living in Minnesota? Least?
In one of his answers, he refers to Target as an academy company which is a term I had not heard before. According to Wikipedia, an academy company is "a term used for an organization that is well known as a place to start a professional career and provides leaders to other companies. Often academy companies hire the majority of their staff from recent college and university graduates, and provide extensive training. Academy companies are frequently targeted by executive search firms as sources of talent. Often academy companies have "up or out" policies that facilitate organizational growth and development." Examples given by Wikipedia of academy companies are: PepsiCo, P&G, General Mills, Kraft, Goldman Sachs, GE, JPMorgan Chase, McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting, HP, Unilever and Nielsen.
I wish him well.