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First Steps for a New CEO 

leadership transition Nov 22, 2021

- By Sophie Pinkoski

As a new CEO, it’s tempting to start taking action as soon as you start. But it’s important to acknowledge that you won’t know everything right off the bat.

Rather than springing to decisions and change immediately upon starting your new role, your first 30, 60, or 90 days as CEO should be dedicated to talking to people who know the organization best.

Listen to what they have to say and add it to your collection of information you will need to make informed decisions about how you intend to lead. 

With so many moving pieces involved in running an organization, identifying the most important people to talk to may sound daunting. Where do you even start with such a large endeavour? Alongside your board and leadership team, it helps to break your network down into manageable pieces first. List all of the internal and external stakeholders. It’s okay if the list is long initially. But what determines the best way to prioritize them for your first months in the role? 

Organization’s needs – Start from where the organization is right now.  Some matters will hold more urgency than others, especially in terms of impact and risk.

Your board and transition team will have the best sense of the organization’s biggest concerns and opportunities.

Lifting the curtain on what’s really going on in the organization should be high on your priority list. That will shed light on which stakeholders are most critical for you to connect with first. 

CEO’s needs – You will be coming into the role with your own expectations and interests.

Make certain your priorities align with the organization’s before making any big changes.

This will include your values and how they will influence the existing culture of the organization. Depending on your position as an internal or external hire, your learning curve will vary. Identify where your professional network differs from that of the past CEO and then you can determine where new opportunities lie.  

Alignment – In your first months as CEO, you should be asking people questions about their expectations. As you get to know the most impactful people in your network, conduct something of a listening tour to get a solid sense of the organization from all angles. Ask them what they think should change and what should be kept the same, as well as their hopes for their new CEO. Be attentive to what they have to say and consider how their feedback will influence your strategic plan and early actions. Identifying who has the most influence in both your internal and external networks will help you establish alignment with the future direction of the organization.  

Once you’ve established the priorities in your network, work with your team to set up connections through calls, online meetings, or personal connections. You’re not alone in this process, and building trust with the most important people involved with your organization will bring clarity to your options moving forward. 


Further Reading: 

First-Time CEO: 6 Areas of Focus for New CEOs, Vistage 

Top 5 Priorities of a Newly-Appointed CEO, The Undercover Recruiter 

A Guide for CEOs- 11 Ways to Make an Impact in Your First 90 Days, The Alternative Board 

4 Things Every New CEO Should Do in the First 60 Days, Inc 

Navigating Complexity: Ten Golden Principles For CEO and Assuming Leadership”, Advanced Leadership Insights, Kruckeberg, Katja. 



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