Many senior executives view admission to the C-suite as the ultimate achievement. To them, it is proof positive that they have what it takes to rise to the very top of the organization and lead from the helm.
1. Transitioning to the C-Suite
However, making that final transition can be extremely challenging and not everyone is able to make a success of it. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the relentless pace of working at the very top of an organization can be exhausting. Multiple priorities, impossible deadlines, information coming in from every angle, a steep learning curve and the pressure to hit the ground running, can prove just too much for some.
Second, many executives come to realize that although they were extremely competent in their former role, they just don’t have all the qualities required for their new role such as a big picture perspective, for example. Another major hurdle is there may have been little or no information provided about any of the challenges they must deal with over and above their corporate deliverables. Team dysfunction, for example, can be a nasty surprise and is very hard to overcome. Each of these challenges can be overwhelming but, now imagine the pressure of dealing with them in a position that is much more in the spotlight than your previous roles.
So how does the new executive avoid a brief tenure? Ask for feedback! It is very important to understand what others think of your capabilities and how you are performing in the role. Be prepared for some eye-opening information. Seek feedback often and from all touch points of your role including your direct reports, your peers, and the board. Use this insight to help you determine your priorities and make any necessary changes.
2. Surviving the Organizational Transition
Organizational change today is often referred to as “the new normal” with businesses frequently reinventing themselves to stay ahead. Executives who don’t reinvent the organization or fail to reinvent themselves will usually be left behind. Great care should be taken to understand the pace of change required. Trying to implement organizational change too fast can be as damaging to the business as being too slow, or not doing it at all. Leaders must stay ahead of change and understand what needs to be done, and their role in it. As important to their survival, arguably, is communicating that information clearly and often to the CEO or board so they understand the leadership role the executive intends to play in transforming the organization, and therefore the value they bring to the company.
3. Transitioning from the C-Suite. What comes Next?
Getting to the top can be such a long and competitive journey that it’s quite possible to have given no consideration to what might come next. Subsequently, some executives remain in the role until they no longer enjoy it or burnout occurs. It’s important to make time to consider your options. An obvious consideration is retirement which may suit those ready to drop the briefcase and finally enjoy the leisure time they have so often sacrificed. Some may consider semi-retirement, opting to undertake contract work occasionally to keep their hand in their chosen field. Others may choose to reach for the top once more in a larger, more complex organization where they feel energized once again. Some may even take a position a step or two down from their current role in a different industry, in order to try something new and work their way back to the top again. Others still, may launch a venture of their own.
Whatever the decision, it will be very important to have a strong network of “sponsors” who, over the years, have taken an interest in you and your career and who may wish to lend their support or even collaborate with you in your next endeavour. Building a solid network is not simply for those on the rise and can be equally important later in your career. Investment opportunities, partnerships, joint ventures, and more, can all spring from those in your network, so always be sure to cultivate it, pay it forward, and put it to work as you transform into your next version of you.