This is the season of CEO transitions. India Inc. will witness a lot of traffic movement in the corner offices. Some will be filled by talent from within the organisation, and some from the ‘outside universe’. There are two options available to organisations to fill the ‘CEO gap’. One, the position gets filled by sourcing talent externally. Two, the ‘CEO gap’ gets plugged internally.
Scenario 1: If the CEO has been brought from outside.
Remember the CEO is as uncertain as you are. He has the same set of worries or concerns that you face. So, once you know the new CEO is coming, get a function status presentation report ready. You should have sufficient time to review this document. It should contain factual information, and not subjective accolades of how well you (and your team) have done. Don’t touch upon budgets yet, there will be enough time to fight over those later.
Don’t take your balanced scorecard to the boss for this presentation and it shouldn’t ideally be more than five slides and cover all the data above. Remember, you are here to leave a good impression, not pitch for a raise or a bigger budget. However, it will be good if you can get that extra five minutes with the new CEO to introduce your team members.
The CEO will be looking at you for some honest reactions and responses. He will not allow other sources of information about you to cloud his judgement. So be as forthcoming as you possibly want to, but temper your language so as you don’t sound bombastic, especially when you speak about your achievements, nor lower your voice when you are apologetic about the mistakes made in the past. It is also extremely unlikely that he will ask you for opinions, but if he does, it’s best to keep your opinion to yourself, especially about your peer group. Dress thoughtfully for the meeting, be careful with your choice of words, respectful, without cringing, and you would have done your bit.
Scenario 2: If the CEO has been brought from inside.
In the event that one of your peers has risen to be the new CEO of the company, he is aware of your strengths, your capabilities and gaps. Therefore, the first part in the previous scenario does not apply. What does is that you align yourself to what the organisation now has to achieve.
You may have had your professional differences in the past. As long as you have had a healthy respect for one another, and are working towards the larger interest of the organisation, there is no reason why you can’t have a continued healthy working relationship with your new CEO. Yes, you may have been a contender for the corner office job yourself, but not having made it, there are two options in front of you. If you think you still have a shot at the title, you should continue to work in the organisation, and ensure that you put in all your efforts to make the new CEO successful. This is demonstrative of a certain order of maturity that most boards come to expect of potential CEO candidates.
If, on the other hand, you are one of those professionals with searing ambition and wish to act immediately on being overlooked, it is now time to start looking for that CEO opportunity that has evaded you. Remember, while it is important to cut your losses and run, the way in which you cut your losses speaks volumes about you as a professional. It is important you do a structured transition, complete the tasks you are assigned and hand over your responsibilities to your successor before making a graceful exit. A bad reference check on a hasty exit can have potential negative repercussions sometime down the line in your career. For there will be a new guy in yet another corner office….
Venkat Iyer is a partner, Aventus Partners, a New Delhi-based leadership talent solutions firm. The views expressed by the author are personal.