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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: 978-1-119-15382-5 May 2015 Jossey-Bass 288 Pages

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Ensure the Success of Critical C-Suite Transitions from Within

It has been estimated that 40% of executives fail within the first 18 months on the job, regardless of whether they were hired from outside the company or promoted from within. This failure rate is becoming enormously costly for businesses. The annual cost of CEO departures is $14 billion dollars in the United States alone. Despite an overabundance of resources targeting incoming executives, this trend shows no signs of reversing. So, the arrival of Transitions at the Top is cause for celebration, because this is the first book that addresses the real core of the issue—the management of CEO transitions by major players within the company.

Board members, outgoing CEOs, human resources executives, and senior managers play an absolutely crucial part in ensuring that incoming CEOs are successful in those critical first eighteen months. Without organization, planning, and strategy on the part of these leaders, CEO transitions are problematic at the outset. Yet major players tend to think their job ends as soon the board's offer is accepted. Transitions at the Top explains why this is a myth, and why it's one of the most costly errors a business can make. The key people involved with C-suite transitions have the power to ensure that the transition is successful—if they understand their roles and follow the necessary steps.

Leadership transition is more complex than many realize, affecting the company's strategy, operating efficiency, and culture. The authors of Transitions at the Top break down every stage in the process, including the adjustments required by everyone involved. These include individual adjustments on the part of the outgoing CEO, the directors, and others, and also large-scale systemic adjustments that involve everyone, at every level. In many ways, these systemic changes are really where the challenge of CEO transitioning lies. This book details the fundamental strategic, political, cultural, and operational tasks that each of the key stakeholders must perform in order to secure a successful change of leadership.

Transitions at the Top may just be the missing link for the growing number of organizations that need to successfully manage leadership changes. With chapters dedicated to board members, outgoing CEOs, Chief Human Resources Officers, and senior managers, this book delivers must-know information within an overall transition framework that, based on the authors' more than eighty years of combined experience, works. By focusing on the real driving forces on the organization's side of the transition equation, Transitions at the Top proves indispensable to the success of an organization at this game-changing time.

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