New CEOs should curb enthusiasm: Joseph

By Staff

New CEOs should take the time to gain a full understanding of the business and its people before making any big changes, Toronto family lawyer Gary Joseph tells Succession Planning, a special supplement published by The Bottom Line and The Lawyers Weekly.

“I think the best approach for a new boss in the business world is to be the tortoise and not the hare,” says Joseph, managing partner of MacDonald & Partners LLP.

“You have to curb your enthusiasm. You’ve got a new position and you might be excited to bring about change and you might be excited about your ideas, but that should be secondary because it’s important to first form relationships within the company.”

To avoid any signs of resentment from senior managers, who many have been passed over for the position, the first priority should be getting them onside, Joseph tells the publication.

“It’s only human for them to feel unhappy, disappointed and resentful. The new boss needs to connect with those people below him or her and make them realize that their positions and involvement in the company are still very important and they are valued.”

The next step is to get buy-in from other members of the company, taking into considering that change is often difficult, he says. In doing so, Joseph says it’s important to avoid the mistake of bringing in a new team.

“The strength within any organization, whether it’s a law firm, a sports team, or a business, is the people and the team that you have. A new boss needs to be careful about that.”

It’s easy to find examples of new CEOs gone wrong, Joseph adds. For example, Hudson’s Bay Co. would hold a press conference to announce a new executive who would be gone only a year later.

“Some of it is that they neglect the resources they have or make the resources feel unwanted or not valued and their new plans fall apart,” he says.

Even if new CEOs take a careful approach to bring existing staff members onside with their new plans, sometimes conflicts will remain that should be addressed, Joseph says.

“Certain people are not going to be won over no matter what you do. The first vice-president who was in line for the job may never come on board your team,” he says.

“If certain people are not going to get on board they have to go because those people will undermine those efforts.”

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