Google announced a reshuffling of the executive team and that one of the original co-founders, Larry Page, will assume the role of CEO. Not surprisingly, analysts didn’t get worked up about this news. Partially because Google has a few billion tucked away. But that’s not the only reason. Google understood that leadership credibility fosters confidence when it comes to transitions in the executive suite.
There is an admonition in the leadership consulting field that goes – people won’t believe the message if they don’t believe the messenger. I believe the most senior leaders at Google communicated in a believable way. They garnered confidence rather than doubt, and left analysts feeling that this shift is a collaborative reconfiguration of senior executive talents and that “they’ve got this under control.”
If you want to secure commitment during a transition in your executive suite there are 6 must do’s in order to be successful. They are:
1. Get Clear
Every organization needs to start by cultivating a global perspective in times of transition. What is needed most is a clear understanding of each constituencies concern, the interpersonal and leadership aspects of the transition, and where uncertainty will raise its head. With this global perspective the next step is to develop your plan.
2. Have a plan
Once you’re clear the next step is to construct a plan that addresses all of the needs and concerns of your key constituents. The ideal plan will answer the question; what do we want people to know, think, feel, and believe about this transition? Treat this transition much like you would a political campaign…have talking points and stay on target with your answers.
3. Focus on People
The easiest aspect of an executive transition to focus on is the technical and task oriented aspects. The area that will secure greater effectiveness is the people side. Put yourself in the shoes of those hearing the news…what are their hopes, fears, and concerns about this news? View this issue from the audience’s perspective and speak to this perspective with empathy and appreciation.
4. Remain Open
No matter how clear your plan is, no matter how detailed your communication strategy, and no matter how much you focus on people, leaders need to be prepared for their message to be scrutinized. An area left ambiguous and or unexplained prompts an audience to question your thoroughness and competence from a pessimistic perspective. Answer all questions in a forthcoming and authentic manner. It’s essential to remember that this questioning is a natural aspect of digesting cumbersome or difficult information.
5. You’re being watched
Leaders only have one tool in their toolkit… themselves. In turn, leaders should remember that they are being watched in ways similar to the old television show Candid Camera. Every word and behavior is filmed and stored privately in the memory banks of each constituent to be played back at a later time. Leaders should strive to be seen as candid, optimistic, inspired, and authentic. The alternative might be to be seen as tentative, disingenuous, avoidant, and detached? One will breed contempt and the other confidence.
6. Live your values
The easiest way to not have to worry about being watched is to behave in ways that are consistent with your core values. By definition, a value is a deeply held belief upon which one acts by choice. Take time to clarify which of your corporate and individual values need to show up during this transition. Without this connection you’ll be buffeted by the demands of the situation and have no safe harbor to call home.
Which of the six do you feel is your strong suit? Which requires your attention? Which one, if not addressed, can derail your executive transition and leave you scrambling to catch up?