When I’m kicking off a CEO search process, there’s a persistent question that seems so counterintuitive to me that I have yet to find a satisfying response: “Won’t the new CEO want his/her own team?” The implication being that the current senior team will be shown the door shortly after the new CEO arrives. (And the other implication being the CEO has a team of executives sitting on the sidelines, just waiting for their general to draft them into service). In my experience, there are many more reasons for the incumbent to keep the current senior team.
- Hot Job Market Especially in the current employment climate, it is challenging to recruit for and land top talent. Key positions can take a few months to fill and it will take additional time for the new exec to come up to speed with the rest of the team. During a CEO’s transition, the last thing he/she wants to do is spend money and time on replacing the leadership team.
- Functional Expertise Egos aside, no CEO can perform every function within the organization well. Losing a core functional expert could handicap the CEO in implementing the strategic initiatives mandated by the Board. Just because your CEO may have been a CFO in a past life doesn’t mean she really wants to close the books and create board packages until a replacement is found. In fact, she’s more likely to appreciate your skill set and have a deeper understanding of the challenges of your role.
- History CEOs are opportunistic. They target credit unions that have a track record of success and show future promise. Who built that track record? You, the current employees who show up every day, the ones who know members’ names, who negotiated the core system contract or who run the CUSO. Of course, some things will change but there’s an old saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Exactly!! What CEO would do that?!?
So what should you expect from a new CEO? Most have a transition plan that involves a lot of communication: setting strategic objectives with the board, learning about the organization from internal and external sources, listening to the employees and gaining an understanding of the key assets within the leadership team. Once the CEO, the Board and the leadership team are aligned, it’s time to tackle the strategic initiatives. New CEOs are more likely to gently (but meaningfully) steer the organization in a new direction than change cars completely.