When C-suite executives are added to the team, they are brought in for reason. Whether it’s a new CEO or a leader over finance, operations, marketing or HR … that person has been put in place to inject change into the organization.
Changes that impact the trajectory of the organization as a whole or a specific dimension of the business.
What many executive teams overlook is the impact this significant leadership change can have on employees, investors, customers and partners. After all, their world has just been shaken up as well. Why? Because new leaders come with new ideas, strategies and priorities. They come with different expectations as it relates to corporate culture and performance.
When these new and different initiatives are put into play — they can wreak havoc on organizational performance if they are not communicated effectively.
There has to be a story behind the change. A story that helps employees, customers and partners connect the dots. A story that answers specific questions such as …
- Who is this new leader?
- Why was a change made?
- What are their plans and expectations?
- How does this impact our current strategy?
- How does this impact what is expected of me (as an employee)?
- How does this impact me (as an investor)?
- How does this change impact me (as a customer)?
- How does this change impact me (as a partner)?
- How will this impact our culture?
- How will this impact our brand story (short-term and long-term)?
In certain cases, answers to some of these questions will be “not at all.” However, in most cases, there is a story that needs to be told. A story that increases clarity, comfort and confidence across your employee, investor, customer and partner ecosystems.
And when the story associated with changes in the C-suite is poorly managed — the change creates more confusion than clarity. It disrupts organizational performance … instead of improving it.
Now, let’s be clear. When we say you need a story, we don’t mean a company-wide email or press release. We are talking about an authentic story that has been intentionally shaped to answer these questions for each stakeholder group and at each level of the organization. And no, we are not talking about sharing that story in a single town hall event or introduction at the next company meeting.
We are talking about a sustained set of messages that leaders, managers and frontline employees will receive over time. A story that will mature and evolve as the new leader’s strategy takes root. A story that is synched with the changes this leader will be making across the organization.
We recommend companies have a messaging and communications strategy that aligns with the new C-suite executive’s journey during his or her first year in the organization. That means you have an intentional story and communications strategy for Week 1, the First 100 Days and for the remaining quarters that follow during the first calendar year.
So, if your C-suite has recently made a change — ask the tough questions. What’s our story in support of this change? Who owns it? What’s the communication strategy to get employees, investors, customers and partners to embrace it? If you happen to be the one filling a C-suite position — you need to ask the tough questions. And then ensure there is a messaging and communications strategy in place so you can be successful in your new role. You’ll be glad you did.