Have you ever led “from the outside?”
It’s a common occurrence; a family-owned company realizes it’s time to bring in new leadership blood – literally – or a corporation hires a new leader from the outside. As the new leader you come to the table with a valued set of experiences and skills.
But the simple fact that you come “from the outside” provides leadership challenges that you may have never faced before.
Four Key Priorities
What are the four key priorities you need to address as a new leader coming from the outside to a family-owned business or even a corporation?
- Talent alignment
- Connecting with your team
- Organizational culture
Let’s look at each of these individually.
If you are being hired by a family-owned business to run the company as the first outsider then your first order of business – before you even take the job to be honest – is to make sure that your vision for where you wish to take the company is accepted by the family.
If the family has a different vision for the company and its future than the one you plan to work toward, then you are set up for failure from the start.
Make sure that during the interview process you clearly outline for the family members you will be working with, who will either be on your leadership team or serve on the Board of Directors, what your vision for the company looks like. Don’t take the job unless you have agreement and support from the most influential family members.
Once you are on board the company, communicating your new vision clearly to all employees will be critical. Do so with the visible support of key family members. Expect employees to look to family members for non-verbal cues of their level of support for you and for this new vision.
If you and the family are fully in sync, then both you and the company are positioned for success. All of this holds true for new leaders of corporations as well; full support of your vision by the Board of Directors will be essential for success.
Once you have clearly communicated your vision throughout the organization, your next step is to ensure that you have a strategic plan to achieve your vision, with the right talent in place to execute your strategies.
This is the number one thing CEOs wish they’d done sooner when they accepted their CEO role.
Think about it this way:
- Each organizational strategy must support the company’s vision in order to move effectively toward it.
- Supporting each strategy should be a team that is properly aligned to execute the strategy.
- Each role on the team should be filled with people who are an excellent fit for the role, including experience and strengths to excel in the role.
This talent alignment strategy will ensure that your team is properly positioned to bring the new vision to life.
Connecting with your team
Perhaps more importantly, when it comes to your talent priority, is the need to fully connect with your team members individually.
As a new leader I think it’s critical for you to connect with your teams on a very personal and individual level.
When I led a new team I would sit down with each of them individually and make sure that they were in roles that were an excellent fit for them and that they were empowered with the support and learning opportunities they needed to succeed and advance.
I also spent time asking them what motivated them and was rewarding to them. In each case it was something different. I think one mistake leaders make is assuming everyone is motivated in the same way, and enjoys being recognized in the same way. This is simply not true.
Taking the time to get to know your team on an individual level seems so obvious, but many new leaders fail to take the time to do this. If you empower each team member for success, and if you ensure they clearly understand their role and how it fits in the bigger picture, they will help make you a more successful new leader.
As a new leader from the outside, especially in a family-owned business, assimilating into – or even attempting to change – the corporate culture may be your most difficult challenge.
It’s important that you get a good sense of the culture before you take the job. Ask people on the line and in the cafeteria what the real values of the organization are. See where there are patterns of similarity in their response. What really gets rewarded? Do employees have a work-life balance and is it encouraged? Is there something about the culture – and about the stories that are the organization’s “lore” – that support organizational growth or that hinder it?
You’ll want to be sure that as a newcomer you will be comfortable in the new culture. If you believe that something about the culture needs to change, you’ll need the support of the Board to make this happen. You’ll also need a plan to bring about the change and to create and nurture the new “organizational stories” that are the foundation of a company’s culture.
Do you agree with these four priorities? Have I left anything out?
Our topic will be, “Leading from the Outside.”
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Photo is New Guy by runneralan2004.