Taking the reins as CEO is tricky. Some participants in our CEO study told us of smooth and helpful transitions, others of strained transitions that couldn’t happen fast enough for one or the other party. Although no firm recommendations emerged as to how long a handoff should last or what incoming CEOs should say or do, executives we spoke with emphasized the importance of attending to a number of specific items during the first 100 days. Be sure to:

  • Learn as much as possible about your senior team, Board dynamics, and the health of the business.
  • Meet key people, including executives at key customers, other CEOs, Board members, and members of the analyst community.
  • Begin to communicate your vision and values.
  • Model the teamwork you wish to see from others, performing behaviors like soliciting feedback and crediting others openly for their good work.
  • Assess the talent at your disposal.
  • Listen—to everyone and anyone.
  • Send personal communications praising good work and progress and sharing your view on news items that affect the organization.

In addition, incoming CEOs should take steps to nurture strong relationships with their predecessors, especially if the predecessor will continue as Chairman of the Board.  As incoming CEO, you’ll find yourself eager to step forward as your company’s new leader, but take time to recognize your predecessor’s contributions to the organization and to express your respect for how his or her insights have set you up for success. If your predecessor is staying on as Chairman, clarify as well how the two of you will divide roles and responsibilities.

Healthy communication between you and your predecessor is key. Many CEOs we spoke with found it helpful to occasionally use their predecessors as sounding boards when facing difficult decisions. Others wished they had consulted their predecessors more often. “I would have liked to have one day a week with the prior CEO to talk about ‘stuff that mattered,’” one CEO told us. “I would have liked to have had feedback on what I was doing and how well I was doing it.”

Don’t go into your first one hundred days blind. Come ready with a plan for how you can best serve the needs of the organization and of shareholders. Remember, your first one hundred days is a once in a lifetime window of opportunity. What a shame it would be to let that window close without exploiting it to the fullest. With a little thought, you can get off to the best possible start as your company’s new CEO.

More on the CEO study can be found in the book Preparing CEOs For Success “What I Wish I Knew”. For more information, visit the CLG Bookstore.

And, for more information about CLG Executive Advisors and the value they bring to CEOs and c-suite executives on issues such as leadership, strategy execution, succession, new leader transition, change implementation, and teamwork among senior teams visit the CLG Executive Advisor section of the website.