The Top 3 Tasks for a New CEO

Q:  What tasks should be in every CEO’s plans for their first 100 days in a new role?

New CEOs go through a SWOT analysis (Strength Weakness Opportunities Threats) of all key stakeholders — management, employees, product, and customers.

  • First is quickly assessing the management team in place. Anyone that is weak should be moved out very quickly, often the first week or two. And strong CEOs aggressively recruit their replacements. They often begin executive recruitment before they even start, calling on top execs they’ve worked with before, and recruiters they trust and have a history with.
  • Next is often a “listening tour” of some fashion. Talking to as many employees as possible, in groups if the start-up is large enough, to get their feedback. This is a quick way to surface key gaps in operations. The questions the CEO will ask will often seem very basic to the employees. But there’s a method to this. The CEO is looking to learn, yes. But more than that, they are looking for patterns in the feedback. To learn what’s >really< going on from the folks doing the actual work. And open ended, broad questions get you that.
  • Calling on key customers is key. A new CEO should be talking to 10–100 top customers starting in Week 1. This is even easier these days on Zoom. If as a new CEO, you don’t talk to 20+ customers in your first 30 days, you don’t care about product.

30 days in, any seasoned CEO will quickly know where the strength and weaknesses are in every area here, from team to culture to product to customers.

And the simplest thing is to just focus on recruiting. That’s why you see so often when a new CEO joins that a few VPs move on … and quickly, often 1–3 new VPs are hired. That’s what moves the needle fastest, once you have traction.

Here’s a great session on what the A+ CEO of Algolia did when she took over the reins:

 

Published on January 17, 2021

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