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Surviving the new CEO: How managers can keep their jobs

By Perminus Wainaina | June 13th 2021

In the past few months, we have seen companies appoint new chief executives. A few days or months later, things start to change. Suddenly, we hear from the media that the company is undergoing or considering restructuring.

Not long ago, Safaricom appointed a new CEO and early this year, it was reported that the new boss had introduced a new business approach and part of its implementation required staff to apply for their jobs afresh.

This is just an example of how new CEOs take over and are likely to introduce changes that show it is no longer business as usual.

So, how can you as a manager survive a new boss, get in their good books and go on to not only secure your job but thrive under them? 

Here are a few pointers.

Start over afresh with the new CEO

It is upon you to start on a clean slate with the new boss. And what this entails is discarding any previous grievances you might have had with the former chief executive.

Recently, a CEO hired by one of our clients disclosed that when he took over and before he had even settled, one of the departmental heads went to his office to complain about a pay rise that the former executive had promised but never effected.

The new CEO, wanting to remain neutral, said he would look into the matter but the manager was dissatisfied and decided to discuss the issue with fellow managers and painting the new boss as non-caring, which the new boss caught wind of.

Such incidents could lead to you being labeled a troublemaker, and that is not a move to get you into the new CEO’s good books.

A new CEO has more urgent and pressing matters to deal with. They want to settle down as fast as possible, roll up their sleeves and get going.

Show your goodwill.

The new CEO might not always come to you. You go to them. It shows you are proactive. Most are on the lookout for what managers have to contribute.

Some new CEOs will join a company at its most profitable quarter or year, prioritising to ensure that the stellar performance is maintained or superseded.

Britam is a good example of how the appointment of their new CEO took place after the insurance services provider reported a profit comeback. 

What would you expect from your staff if you were the new boss?

Getting the support you need from your managers makes you know that you have teammates you can count on to get the job done and to maintain the good performance.

As an employee, this is not the moment to alienate yourself from the CEO. That may inadvertently mark you as an outsider.

Most importantly, if you are a manager in the company’s most critical departments, such as HR, finance and operations, your helping the new CEO settle in goes a long way in letting them count you as a valuable asset.

Have a plan and align it to the CEO’s

Long before announcing that there would be a new chief executive joining the company, things are still moving, including your job. So it only makes sense to have a plan that demonstrates your priorities, allegiance and loyalty to the new CEO.

It sends a strong signal that you are set on your “A” game mode.

Take the current government as an example.

During and after the transition, we have witnessed endless appointments and promotions of individuals in critical departments, which is tied to helping the country’s CEO, the president, execute his development and political agenda.

One thing to note is that the people who have been appointed have had their plans and contributions aligned to the bigger agenda. Demotions and dismissals have also been effected in equal measure.

Being aligned to the new CEO’s bigger plan is crucial and hardly goes unrecognised.

Rise up to the CEO’s working style

Consider a new CEO whose habit is to get to the office by 6.30am while you, confident of your performance, prefer to get to the office at the stipulated time of 8.30am.

While there is undoubtedly nothing wrong in reporting when you are most productive, perception is key when it comes to the corporate world.

You might equally need to be an early riser. This is just one of the ways to show that you are in sync. It is also about having the emotional intelligence of knowing what values the new CEO is subscribed to and adapting.

Every new CEO has their unique way of doing things, and mirroring their style of work ethic, communication, planning and execution go a long way towards keeping you in the company.

Your success with the new CEO and the relationship thereafter will depend on your social skills and not so much your technical skills, or even performance.

Knowing how to manage up is a must-have skill.

- The writer is CEO of Corporate Staffing Services, A HR consultancy based in Nairobi.


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