Updated: Sep 8
Adjusting to a new CEO after the old one killed the company culture and laid off your colleagues can make you feel weary and suspicious. Find out how to boost your morale, get in the driver’s seat of your career, and make a meaningful connection with your CEO.
Reader: How Do I Connect With A New CEO?
I need career advice. My company replaced our last CEO who, after several years, drove the company into the ground which resulted in several rounds of layoffs. Morale is low from the work stress even with a new CEO who seems to be more qualified and more positive than the last one. What can I do to connect with the new CEO and help raise the vibe of my office?
Sheesh! It’s a miracle that you’re still standing and got a job. I’m surprised you haven’t actually left the joint for greener pastures; Either you have balls/ovaries of steel, or you’re just so valuable that you made it through the gauntlet of layoffs. Hats off to you, first of all.
A Clash of Executive Egos
From my experience of coaching layoff survivors, layoffs are usually last ditch efforts to stave off bankruptcy or to move the company off the portfolio belonging to a capital group who has found the business unprofitable. Could be both or either or. It’s clear that the leaders – not just the old CEO – strayed away from the company’s original brand values and company ethos and layoffs were a consequence of this fact. The layoffs were used to clean the books and a new CEO was hired for good measure.
Culturally, layoffs are a consequence of a clash of executive egos and major personal problems of the executive suite. When individuals stray their business strategy from the brand’s values, bad things happen and you’re left to feel the pain.
Recover From The Emotional Trauma of Layoffs
If you believe in the core values of the company – even if they are shredded to bits at this point – and you enjoy what you do with the (remaining) colleagues around you, then now is the time to step up to the task of coming to terms with what this new CEO means to the scope of your career. As one of the survivors of a layoff, you’re part of the clean up crew responsible for sweeping up the wreckage left behind by unfocused and haphazard leadership.
Chances are, there are remaining colleagues who are dealing with anxiety, workplace stress, and even scared by the trauma of seeing their co-workers get laid off. You may be, too. The arrival of a new CEO is the time to process what happened during the old CEO’s tenure – and indeed, it’s hard when you don’t have all of the facts. First and foremost, focus on you.
A New CEO Encourages You To Re-Calibrate Your Career & Life Priorities
Odds are, you’ve brought that work place stress home with you to your family. They, too, have to deal with the fallout of job insecurity and your stress.
Find out what this phase of welcoming a new leader into your career means to you and the scope of your life. What’s important to you now? What do you decide you need to feel secure at work? What kind of behaviors and attitudes best represent a quality leader? A poor one? Is it time to re-evaluate your personal life purpose vis-a-vis your career?
All of these questions and more can be answered with proper reflection and guidance. And, by the time you process the trauma of layoffs (even if you survived them) you’ve got a clearer understanding and confidence about what matters and what you can do now to prioritize them.
Get To Know Your New CEO And Share The Brand’s Values
At the senior and executive level, you should have reasonable access to your new CEO and ability to bring them perspective. If you’re not at these levels, take advantage of town halls, group meetings, and even e-mail. Raise questions to him/her.
Ask the new CEO what their motivations are (what drives them to succeed). Find out if they understand the company ethos. Where they are in their personal life? Is it stable? What are their 90 day goals are in relation to their new vision for the company. A good one will have a plan laid out. Inquire as to how this new CEO builds teams and what their philosophy is on conflict management.
Raising questions to your new CEO can help you examine their intentions, motivations, and leadership techniques. You may want to stick around and see what they’re capable of – or, you may want to bail. Either way, make an informed decision and trust your gut.
Get Focused About The New Business Strategy A New CEO Ushers Into The Tribe
A new CEO usually ushers in a new business strategy, sometimes even a new business model. You’ve got to be adaptable to this change and play your part in its execution. If you believe in the new strategy, or are taking part of the exploration process of what is possible given new leadership and facts, then you can help.
Afterwards, get back to your business unit or department and talk with your team. What strategies are time-tested and work well? What doesn’t work anymore or has been dysfunctional? Your CEO or VP will need this data to build strategy. Don’t get attached to any outcome or strategy, however. Because your vision may not be perfectly matched with the new leadership, so focus on what can be improved even at a small scale.
The act of rallying the troops to troubleshoot and analyze the old CEO’s plans and strategies is the first place your team can start to build morale and trust. You may not fix everything over night, but remain positive that a new era brings in new opportunities for growth.
New CEO, New Era: Taking A Look At The Bigger Picture
A new CEO usually signifies the awakening of the outmoded, unhealthy behaviors and unsuccessful strategies of the old leadership. Not all existing cultural problems will be fixed by the new CEO, but it does mean that there’s room for new conversation and possible change.
Take advantage of the precious first 90 day period to build a relationship – if not a presence – with the new CEO. Then, stave off temptation to complain to the new CEO about old leadership, remaining cronies, and problems. Because CEOs are leaders, not saviors. Bring ideas, solutions, facts that can be acted on with a healthy detachment to the process. And, most importantly, be honest from the get-go with your new CEO. Your honesty has the power to revolutionize your life, career, and the general vibe of the office. Inject this energy into the new relationship and new era and you’ll be setting the tone for a successful one.
Video & New CEO Infographic
Because I’m a Game of Thrones nerd, I created a slideshow with shots from the show with quotes from this article. Share with your friends and fellow colleagues.