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Transitions at the Top: What Organizations Must Do to Make Sure New Leaders Succeed



Transitions at the Top: What Organizations Must Do to Make Sure New Leaders Succeed

Dan Ciampa, David L. Dotlich

ISBN: 978-1-118-97508-4 April 2015 Jossey-Bass 288 Pages


Clear, actionable guidance toward managing a major leadership change

Transitions at the Top is an insightful, informative guide to navigating a change in leadership. A smooth transition is critical to both the health of the organization and the success of the new leader, but good planning and strong strategy can help organizations come out fresher and more driven on the other side. This book provides the specific principles, guidelines, and actions that boards, C-suite executives, and HR leaders need to guarantee a successful CEO transition. Continuity is key as one leader passes the mantle to a successor, and this book spans the steps and events that take place from when the candidate accepts the offer, all the way through the point where a critical mass of followers have accepted him or her as the established leader. Coverage includes guidance on who should be engaged in the process, as well as role-specific advice for each member of the transition management team.

Many books have been written to advise new incoming CEOs, but there is little guidance available for the organization as a whole. This book provides actionable advice on smoothing the transition without breaking stride.

  • Maintain continuity during leadership transitions
  • Strengthen focus on culture, systems, and processes
  • Engage all influential executives in smoothing the transition
  • Lay a foundation to help the new leader succeed

The transition management team plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of the organization during a time of major change. Strong strategy becomes critical when an organization is in flux, and high engagement is key. Transitions at the Top provides expert insight, clear guidance, and a solid plan for a smoother transition.

Preface xiii

Acknowledgements xix

Introduction 1

The Transition Challenge 3

The Roots of Failure 7

Complexity 7

Thinking Errors 8

Execution Errors 9

Roles for Success 11

The Board’s Role 11

The CEO’s Role 13

The CHRO’s Role 15

The Senior Managers’ Role 17

1 Complexity and Critical Crossroads 21

Complexity 25

Individual Adjustments 25

CEO 25

Board 27


Senior Managers 32

Systemic Adjustments 34

Strategic 34

Operational 36

Political 39

Cultural 41

Summary 45

2 Three DestructiveMyths 47

Myths Plaguing Transitions at the Top 56

Myth 1: People Join Companies All the Time…It’s No Big Deal 58

Myth 2: Our Job Is Done When the OneWeWant Says “Yes” 62

Myth 3:We Know What He Can Do 65

How TransitionMyths Bar Productive Thinking 71

Lack of Empathy 71

Lack of Learning 73

Lack of Questioning 74

Leaving Tough Questions Unanswered 76

Summary 79

3 Errors of Execution 81

Relationship between Incumbent and Successor 85

Preparing for Only One Transition 90

The Leader Who Departs 90

Derivative Defections 93

Mismanaging the Transition Process 96

Not Organizing and Interpreting the Right Information 96

HowThings Really Get Done 97

Culture and Power Structure 98

Power and Influence 104

Not PreparingMajor Players for the Right Roles 106

Mishandling the Onboarding of the New Leader 109

Summary 114

4 The Board’s Role 117

Directors asMajor Players 121

Oversight for the Transition 127

Managing Relationships 134

Judging Performance 143

Expectations 146

Cultural and Political Attention 148

Summary 150

5 The CEO’s Role 153

Controlling the Steps and Pace 157

Role 158

The Search and the Transition 162

Ensuring Other Players Do What TheyMust 166

Self-Management and Self-Awareness 171

Summary 177

6 The CHRO’s Role 179

Great Senior Staffing Support 185

Help for the New Leader 192

What the New LeaderMust Do 192

Learning 193

Visioning 194

Coalition Building 196

Methods andMechanisms for Relationships 198

Connecting 201

Listening 203

Summary 210

7 The Senior Manager’s Role 215

Shaping Organization Opinion 220

Delivering Support 227

BuildingWinning Relationships 234

Summary 241

8 Summary 245

Index 253