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Excel in Your First Year
in the C-Suite

  1. Get Started
  2. Listen First
  3. Clarify Your
    Priorities
  4. Strengthen
    Your Team
  5. Elevate
    Your Thinking
  6. Engage Your Board
  1. Get
    Started
  2. Listen First
  3. Clarify Your Priorities
  4. Strengthen Your Team
  5. Elevate Your Thinking
  6. Engage Your Board

Strengthen Your Team

Consider skill sets and personalities—and act swiftly—when shaping your new team..

Who’s Right for the Company Right Now?

Before acting, assess your team carefully, considering both role structure and the skill sets of the individuals who occupy them, said Martin Kelly, chief financial officer of Apollo Global Management. “As companies evolve, teams need to, as well,” said Laurel Spencer, senior vice president of global sales and marketing at Amcor. “Just because somebody was really great for the company 10 years ago, they may not be that right person going forward. … It’s about building the team that supports the … strategy.” For Qualcomm’s Sanchez, that meant gaining a clear understanding of his company’s skill set “gaps”—missing or lagging capabilities that would inhibit the organization from progressing from its “current state” to its “future state.” Identifying these gaps will reveal opportunities for upskilling, restructuring, hiring, and firing, he said.

  • Get Started
  • Listen First
  • Clarify Your
    Priorities
  • Strengthen
    Your Team
  • Elevate
    Your Thinking
  • Engage
    Your Board
“As companies evolve, teams need to, as well. … Just because somebody was really great for the company 10 years ago, they may not be that right person going forward.”
– Laurel Spencer, Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Amcor
Establish a window of fairness and then be decisive; these decisions don’t get clearer over time, said Anne Mulcahy, former chairperson and CEO of Xerox. Postponing the firing of team members who aren’t cutting it is a mistake, she added. Mulcahy removed three Xerox leadership team members early in her tenure after a mutual agreement was reached: “Three leaders and I agreed that they were not up to the journey” of a company turnaround, she recounted. These decisions led to newfound trust and commitment among the remaining leaders that held for her eight-year tenure as CEO. Said Kelly: “Be prepared to make quick decisions. Your gut is right; without a great team—structure and individuals—you won’t be positioned to achieve the key strategic priorities.”
“Be prepared to make quick decisions. Your gut is right; without a great team—structure and individuals—you won’t be positioned to achieve the key strategic priorities.”
– Martin Kelly, Chief Financial Officer and Co-Chief Operating Officer, Apollo Global Management

In addition to removing employees, Sanchez noted that he could’ve moved faster with adding new talent. According to him, it’s easy to think: “It’s going to get a little bit better. I don’t need this role yet. We can wait.” But delaying the addition of critical talent is often second-guessing disguised as strategic planning. “I wish I had six months back,” said Sanchez. Remember that new hires need not be external hires. Top talent is sometimes “tucked away in other areas” of the business. “A part of being a good leader is understanding where you put talent and how you can move talent around,” said Amcor’s Spencer.

Leaders who can drive momentum for the company’s greatest objectives are more important to have on your team than “the smartest technical experts,” said Spencer. Identify these leaders by assessing their comfort with speaking up, not simply taking orders—a skill that becomes rarer to find when you’re in the C-suite. “I walk in a room, and [people] shake their heads [saying,] ‘Yes, yes, yes’—or everything gets filtered,” she said. “I need people to tell me the things that other people won’t tell me. … I want people that don’t think like me, and I want people that argue with me. I actually like … constructive debate.”

Here’s what to keep in mind as you begin to strengthen your new team:

  • Ensure everyone knows their responsibilities. “People tend to get paralyzed if they … don’t understand what their part is in achieving [the] goal,” said Wanda Austin, former president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation. “Make it clear to them what piece of this problem they own and how they’ll know that they’re making positive progress.”
  • Hone your emotional intelligence. “You have to engage the whole person. It’s not enough to just say, ‘Well, this is what I see from 8:00 [a.m.] to 5:00 [p.m.], and that’s all I care about,’” said Austin. Get to know the challenges your employees face and the communities they’re a part of, as well as anything that impacts their ability to “bring their best selves to work,” she advised.
  • Give people honest feedback. As you get to know your new team, tough conversations are inevitable. Remember it is kind to let people know where they stand, said Mulcahy, who recommended offering feedback one on one, with empathy and contextual examples to support your reasoning. Give people a chance to digest this information, but if they don’t make necessary changes, move forward.
Building a Culture of Empowerment
“You don’t lead because of your title; you lead because people want to follow you,” said Mark Weinberger, former global chairman and CEO of EY. He offered advice for establishing an organizational culture that enables people to create solutions.
Elevate Your Thinking

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NEW YORK | LONDON | SINGAPORE | ATLANTA

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World 50 Inc.

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© 2023 All rights reserved.