My Leap Into Leadership And Flop Into Failure
Ok, you’ve made it to the top. Now what?
After selling my first company at the age of 32 to a multinational corporation, I went on to become one of the youngest female executives in my new role. Yet inside of two years, I found myself in the unenviable position of being one of the 50% of executives who fail within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired. So, I spent the next decade figuring out why over half the time, obviously smart, capable and proven leaders, who clearly demonstrate success and intelligence, fail when they move into an executive position. I realized that while leadership changes may be more common than ever, most companies don’t handle these transitions properly.
Many organizations take a hands-off approach to onboarding the new executive, treating onboarding as a one-off event rather than creating a structured process for evaluating progress and outcomes or offering the right support. Alarmingly, this approach results in 75% of newly minted senior leaders feeling unprepared for their new role and 78% saying that navigating organizational politics is the biggest barrier. *
Finally, you have a seat at the table now. How can you make sure you stay there?
Looking back, it’s clear that I didn’t know myself well enough to effectively highlight my strengths and mitigate my weaknesses. In an effort to grab the reins in my new role, I often acted too quickly and without assessing the politics and people around me, missing the mark on identifying critical stakeholders and determining what they wanted and did not want. I stumbled at aligning and inspiring the team to support and take on the new organizational priorities I had set forth, and I missed out on the opportunity to forge a strong foundation that would actually allow me and my team to succeed. And in this, I wasn’t alone: 68% of executives report having difficulty in figuring out what their leadership really wants from them.* How is anyone supposed to succeed under this framework? It’s only been after many years of thinking about and creating successful transitions, for myself and for my client companies, that I’ve been able to establish a solid system designed to increase the chances of a rewarding executive leadership transition by assessing and then acting across several core areas.
Yes, the purpose and strategy are clear. But how do you get the team fiercely rowing in the same direction?
Every great business and team starts by identifying a concrete purpose and then building a strategy around that purpose. When it comes to aligning your team to meet goals surrounding your strategy, you need to establish an organizational structure rooted in accountability, communication and tracking success. My approach now is to assess and architect each executive transition which can increase your likelihood of success by mastering alignment of five key building blocks: purpose, politics, priorities, people, and plan.
Key Program Anchors and Methodology
• Assess - Take time to really know what makes you tick. What are your hopes, worries, and aspirations for the role?
• Architect - Dive deep into what motivates you, what you value, and how you tackle problems, politics and people.
• Assess - Know who your critical stakeholders and influencers are and vet what matters and what does not matter to them.
• Architect - Take time to identify, listen and connect with the critical stakeholders and influencers; embark on a listening tour as soon as possible.
• Assess - Know the organization’s current performance and what it’s capable of achieving.
• Architect - Decide on the top five priorities for the first 12 months that best drive the company to the desired goal line.
• Assess - Get the right people on the bus in the right seats to support your priorities, and be clear on the culture shift needed to create a high-impact environment.
• Architect - Once you have the right people, take them on a journey to become a truly high-performing team and to clearly articulate how they support the organization’ aspirations and priorities.
• Assess - Create the work actions required to deliver results in line the priorities.
• Architect - Align and mobilize the team to deliver on the action plans designed, and set up monitoring and tracking mechanisms.
We all agree women rising to the top is important. So, how can the beauty industry do better?
In an industry such as beauty, where published reports state that only 10 of the 100 biggest companies in the biz have a female CEO, giving new executives access to leadership transition programs is a vital part of combating the failure rate and changing this statistic. Women don’t hold as many of the top positions, and when they do ascend to these positions, scrutiny and expectations are high. Robin McGee, a rising star in the beauty industry and newly appointed CEO of the luxury skin care and beauty brand Osmosis, understands just how pivotal resources were to her own transition to the top. “When I took over the reins at Osmosis, I knew it would be challenging to run a fast-growing company and that expecta- tions were high, and evaluation of my performance would come fast. As a business leader, I felt my ability to hire, inspire and bring out the best in those that work with me would be a key factor when achieving strategic growth and meeting our goals. Yes, it’s a tough job. But using the alignment approach of the ‘building blocks’ of purpose, politics, priorities, people, and a plan has made a big impact for me and for the team.”
By giving talented and eager new executives the right access to programs and initiatives that are designed to support their new role, they are far more likely to scale up quickly and effectively and to avoid becoming one of the 50% of new executives who flop into failure.