Fresh meat, fresh ideas

Last week I highlighted a recent article by Richard Jolly, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour entitled ‘ Happy at the top’.images

In it, Jolly suggests that modern CEO’s find that the talents they used to reach senior positions are not the only one they need for success at that level. Nor can modern CEOs behave like Moses on the Mount, handing down wise instructions and expecting them to be followed. Business is moving too quickly for that, and much of what is going on inside a Company is beyond detailed understanding.

It doesn’t help that when you’re the CEO people come to you for guidance. What do you say when you don’t have the answers but you’re still expected to respond?

“Publicly, you might need to say something that shows confidence. But in yourself, if you’re an intelligent leader, you have to stay with the complexity, the not knowing. That’s uncomfortable.” Says Professor Jolly.

As F Scott Fitzgerald put it, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

In my work with organisations across the Region, I help CEO’s to create internal environments where every single person in the company knows why they’re there, where the enterprise is going and how they can make their own skill set productive.  That’s what the best businesses today are doing and I believe that’s what will increasingly drive their success in the future. The best ideas often happen furthest away from the CEO’s office, because that’s where people are more comfortable to take risks and experiment, away from the politics of the boardroom. I also find that it’s often the people entering the organisation who tend to lead the change. This can be unsettling when you have worked hard to climb the ladder to the top, where you expect your knowledge and expertise to be valued.

Capitalising on the fresh perspectives and lack of organisational anxiety in new joiners requires that CEO’s act quickly.

That is why every new staff member needs to be ‘Onboarded’ within 30 days. And by onboarding (or induction) I do not mean the process of leading a new joiner round the office to meet people. Then sitting them in a room to receive a series of Powerpoint presentations delivered by executives under pressure to return to their daily work, or by deputies who share the slides but not the meaning.)

By Onboarding I mean a standardised programme that equips new joiners with the information they need to become productive within the first month. Learning about the 4 C’s:

  • How we do things around here.
  • Clarity of role. How to shape your own contribution.
  • Who you need to know for easy collaboration.
  • How we expect you to behave.

If that onboarding process convinces new joiners that they are free to propose change, then the only other thing you need to do is to coach them. As a CEO, you will find that even ‘light touch’ coaching will build the confidence of the new employee and unlock his or her fresh perspectives. I have seen this work very well several times this year in companies where key appointments have been made. Twice in the engagement of a new HR Manager; and once in the onboarding of new Sales & Marketing people. In each case the CEO made sure that each new resource understood the reasons for their appointment and their expected contribution. Then, in the first six months, there were a number of ‘So, what do you think?’ meetings.


What a refreshing change, for both staffer and CEO.





Chris leads the African operations of The Brand Inside.


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