Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes

Starting as a CEO is a fantastic opportunity and can be challenging and overwhelming at the same time. But the steps they take in the first six to twelve months will play a pivotal role in their journey and the success of their business. Karina Perez Galindo, Managing Director at Robert Half’s executive search practice, shares her advice on what they should focus on.

New leaders have a unique opportunity to set the tone. Even if they have been promoted internally, they know that everyone is watching them, and wants to hear about their vision and plans. The first year is therefore a pivotal time to understand the people, the business, and decisions that need to be taken. I’ve seen Chief Executives join businesses and start by setting up meetings with every employee. They usually want to know what works well, what could be improved, and what expectations people have for the future.


Context - The story, history, values and people of a business provide a window into the business. The expectations of owners, the board of directors, the executive committee, and even previous CEOs will play into the experience of a new leader. Most of this knowledge will come naturally in the early days of the role, and time spent in the business will reveal deeper insights. But the breadth of the company story, and the people of influence, are important to understand.

  • Objectives – Why has a new CEO been appointed? What are their objectives when they arrive? Is it to lead a restructuring or sales process, or a merger? Once they understand the context of the business, a roadmap for the first year – detailing what they need to achieve and how that will be made possible – helps to focus attention and provide clarity.
  • Culture – Talking with employees will help new CEOs understand the culture, but it’s important for them to see beyond the way things have operated in the past. To step back from the current picture, and to see how they can develop the culture, is not an easy task; but one that will help them to achieve their objectives.
  • Communication – CEO’s set the direction and objectives for others to follow. Communication doesn’t come naturally to all CEOs, so they might need some help, but it’s the backbone of their role, especially at times of economic and geopolitical challenges and cultural change.
  • Networks – Close relationships, and acknowledging internal politics, are important; understanding the people willing to be influenced and those harder to convince. Relationships with a network of businesses are also important, in addition to the government, and regulators, if applicable. These allow CEOs to have a voice and stay close to the external political and economic picture.
  • Information – CEOs need the right information to make the right decisions. Some are technology savvy, others less so, but holding conversations with the Chief Technology Officer and understanding data, will help to make the right conclusions, define actions, and build an efficient business. Being supported with the right facts and figures will help them get up to speed and deliver on the mandate above.

This journey is relevant for any new CEO, from those joining start-ups and corporates, to those transferring from different sectors. While start-up CEOs can be more hands on with product development, corporate leaders need an effective voice in their industry, and leaders from different sectors will work harder to gain trust – the aim of all three is the same: To set the tone, build connections and relationships, and support people to grow in their careers, whether they are in a board meeting, sending an email, or sharing breakfast.


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Executive Search with Robert Half

Robert Half’s Executive Search practice is one of world’s leading advisories for boards and executive committees. Our bespoke advisory model stands-out with combining a hands-on boutique approach with our global strength and versatility. Through our years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the industries, we act in a dual function for our clients, as market barometer and trustworthy ambassador. Today we can demonstrate with pride a track record of filling mission-critical executive positions for our clients – in particular for SMEs and mid-sized companies, whether they are listed, private-, family-, or private equity owned. We advise and accompany our clients beyond the mere search assignment – both the company and the candidate – because we are convinced that finding the right candidate is just the beginning of building a future-oriented and sustainable company management and leadership approach.

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