The Only Constant Is Change: Learn How To Thrive Through Corporate Transitions

The Only Constant Is Change: Learn How To Thrive Through Corporate Transitions

September 2016


An issue that keeps people up at night is, how do I continue to build my career when there is a transaction or a transition of leadership at the top? A Strategy& study, PWC’s strategy consulting business, found that in 2015 16.6% of global corporations had CEO turnover . On average, global CEO turnover has been steadily increasing since 2000 . We are living in a world where the only constant is change and those people who can pivot and add value to a new culture will succeed. In this article, I focus on four key leadership qualities to help you soar in an evolving environment: preparation, time sensitivity, continuous learning and relationship building. 

1. Preparation

When there is a transition of leadership at the CEO level or within your business unit, it’s imperative that you aggressively prepare for your first meeting with the new leader. In that preparation, don’t view any interaction with the new business leader as a casual encounter. It is incumbent upon you to think through in clear terms what your most significant achievements have been over the last year or two. General statements like I have been frustrated for a long time, or providing negative observations about the culture is not going to enable you to effectively utilize the opportunity to interface with this new leader. Things like, “I’m excited you are here. Here are a couple of thoughts regarding the way we can accelerate the co-creation or products and services for our customers or here’s a thought about how we can increase internal communication.” These comments sound and feel proactive, engaged and smart.

As an example, the amount of time that smart people dedicate to their preparations of conversations with their CEO will define their future roles. The smartest people think hard and prioritize what they are trying to achieve. With increasing complexity today, not wasting time on tactical things becomes more important. The people who become a drag on the energy of a leader, are dismissed as not worthy of attention or time. And for your own development, don’t spend a lot of time with these people either. You are better off reading or learning with strategic people.

2. Time Sensitivity

When you are invited to have a cup of coffee with the new CEO or business leader, understand that if you are invited to the meeting at 10 am, it is imperative that you be at that location ready to go at 9:55 am.   I’ve seen people come late which starts to feel sloppy, undisciplined and not helpful.  Be on time, and also if you are told the meeting is 15 minutes, prepare an outline in advance that helps you and the person you are talking to understand the purpose of the meeting so it doesn’t get “wide” and “gauzy”, but feels rather tight and focused. Being able to lean into that conversation will open the door wider for your opportunity to contribute and share meaningful ideas. I have seen people who come late or just make the 10 am time under the wire and show no preparation. These people self-define themselves in as unproductive.

Always ask how much time you have for the meeting.Don’t make the mistake that you have unlimited amounts of time. Understand up front how much time has been allocated for the meeting. In 15 minutes, you should be able to lay out really clear thinking about how you can help and add ideas that are creative. If it takes you a half hour to express your ideas, probably something is wrong.

3. Continuous Learning

Being open to new and diverse ideas as well as new people of different backgrounds, is really important.  This is all part of staying on the edge and pivoting your thinking. Every day, make sure to read at least three or four streams of information. I read them before 6 am, including national events, global events, local news and anything else that appears of interest in the industries of our clients.

People who attend board meetings read the materials that are on the agenda beforehand. If you are going to meet with a prospective client, read the publicly disclosed materials to learn where their organization is going, what is their mission and vision, understand what their challenges are.  On the flip side, if you just go to someone’s office to have a sing-song conversation and let them control the dialogue, this is not advancing your career or helping the prospective client either. It’s OK to have a collegial catch up with one or two sentences, but don’t take too long to get right into the questions on the table. If you have a 15-minute meeting, you need to do your homework, understand what the other person is interested in and work to ensure their goals are achieved as well as yours. Even if you have an hour meeting with a new potential strategic partner, plan your part to last more than 15 minutes, let them share their insights for 15 minutes and then have the remaining 30 minutes for important dialogue. That’s where the impact happens.

4. Relationship Building

Life and business are built on relationships.I am going to assume that you have a significant number of relationships in your network. Highly effective people have relationships in which they are sharing learnings within the industry or outside of their industry. They have colleagues who are sending them information that helps them to learn and grow and gain new insights from other industries. Real innovative energy comes from learning from each other both internally and externally. Make sure you know people who can provide you with really good content. Make it a goal to know people who work both inside and outside of your industry. I personally have a relationship with one of the Chief Scientists at IBM. I get articles that are really interesting. Really smart people are sending articles to stimulate thinking, not sending around jokes.

Conferences can be a great opportunity to learn from very smart people. If you hear a speaker that you find interesting, go up to the speaker after the presentation and ask if they can put you on their mailing list. This is not wasting someone’s time. If you identify smart people, get their reports and writings and where appropriate, share them with your team.

By focusing on preparation, time sensitivity, continuous learning, and building relationships, you will enhance your ability for good things to happen in your career. I look forward to hearing any examples you may have that have worked for you. By thinking about your actions and prioritizing them, you will become more strategic and get better results with this disciplined and laser-sharp, focused approach.


This article was written by Stuart R. Levine from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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