Earlier this year I had to research what to do when your leader changes and found lots or articles online and in Melcrum’s SCM publication.
Nearly everything I found approached the change as though I was a board member…and I’m not. So all the advice was somewhat useless as I couldn’t be the person these tips were saying I should be. The best piece of advice I found was a template for creating a 100 day plan from Hallmark.
So what did the first 100 days for my new leader really look like and what can I learn from managing the communication?
1. Get to know the new person
This might sound a little odd but one of the first things I did was meet the internal communications manager of his previous company. I wanted to know where internal comms sat in his previous business, what role they took on and what his opinion was of the function. I found this was invaluable to provide me with insight into how our new CEO viewed internal communications and would recommend others do this. No matter what we say about having a voice on the board, if your leader isn’t engaged with communications you will never have his ear, so is worth knowing early what their stance is.
2. Give them a plan
Whether or not it was needed, I could see the value in being prepared, so I pulled together a strategy for the first 100 days that outlined opportunities to meet people and where we could use our magazine and intranet. I can’t tell you if he read my plan, but it helped me think about what I needed to do and be ready for anything. Huge thanks to Dean Rodenbough at Hallmark for sharing his plan via Melcrum.
3. Introduce them before they arrive
I know the importance of positioning a new leader properly so their first impression is a good one. So the week before our new CEO arrived, I got in touch with him about doing a piece for our intranet to introduce himself and explain what he was going to be doing for the first few months. Our outgoing CEO had been in the business a long time and I wanted to get the positioning of the new leader in place before his arrival. Your exit strategy for your outgoing CEO is as important as your incoming leader. I found that the intranet piece was a great way for people to welcome him to the business and see his photo – we had 32 recommendations and 11 comments on the post which is good for us!
4. What do I need to tell them?
Everything I read told me to tell the new leader about the business and how it operated but I didn’t see that as my job. He has a board of directors who can tell him what they do and how they operate their function – why would I need to do that? Instead I wanted to be on hand as a subject matter expert on the company’s culture, specifically being there to advise and make sure he knew how he could communicate with people, what opportunities he had and let him know what was going on outside the office.
5. Every leader is different
The first 100 days in any organisation with any new leader will be a challenge for a communicator and what you need to do will differ depending on your leader and your business.. Read as much as you can but in the end you know your business and you know what will work and what won’t to engage everyone. Make yourself available as much as you can and use the opportunity to establish the role where you want it in the business.
So what did we do to introduce the new leader?
- Interview with outgoing CEO in magazine
- Intranet post from new CEO the week before arrival
- Interview with new CEO in magazine
- Regularly out in the business meeting people serving our customers
- Attendance at events – Barista competitions, charity events etc.
- Video pieces for induction of managers for when he cannot attend
- After 2 months we hosted two town hall meetings for heads of department with key messages about changes in the business
- CEO now posting updates on the intranet about where he is going and who he is seeing