My 8 Leadership Actions as a New CEO (that may work for you, too)
In the first minute of my first day as CEO of Reputation Institute (Ri), it was clear to me that instead of enjoying the traditional honeymoon period, I’d be jumping right into the realization phase of this relationship.
Since the company had been operating with an interim CEO and no CFO for six months, I quickly understood there were many business-critical decisions to make and time was of the essence.
It’s exactly what I signed up for!
The immediate challenges looked like this:
- fill vacant leadership roles
- set global strategy
- develop an effective way to communicate Ri’s value proposition
- manage the tactical backlog
- prepare for an upcoming audit
- manage the details related to a recent acquisition
The Ri team was ready to go. Our then interim CEO, Tyler Newton, chairman of the Board of Ri and partner/director at Catalyst Investors — our predominant investment partner — sparked change during his brief tenure and unleashed a renewed sense of optimism and thirst for innovation among the Ri team. My job was to accelerate this momentum, so I set the course with this eight-stage plan:
- Stress inclusivity. While we were based in Cambridge, Mass., I wanted to send the message that Ri HQ is not the center of our universe. We’re a global company with a presence from Australia to Europe to North and South America and “we are only as strong as we are united.” I held our first leadership team meeting in London to emphasize inclusivity and to leverage our talents worldwide.
- Complete a SWOT analysis and build a 100-day plan with the leadership team to identify what assumptions I may have miscalculated during my interview process.
- Listen to clients around the world to get a better understanding of what’s working and where we have growth opportunities.
- Meet with employees around the world to begin to build trust and understand the culture. How fast was the team willing to execute on what matters most for growth? What did they want from me? Where were we strongest? What were our values? What was our special sauce on the product side?
- Fill critical positions and simplify the organizational structure. For me, this meant bringing in a CFO, a global head of HR, and aligning our sales and marketing departments as a growth-building machine focused on improving the sales cycle and conversion.
- Build cultural strength and measure it. Here’s how we did it:
- We listened hard and built tools for better global connectivity (enhanced internal systems and built an employee-focused mobile app).
- We moved HQ to Boston’s Back Bay, a space that is triple the size and filled with great amenities and space for collaboration and growth.
- We reignited our company values and incorporate them in everything that we do.
- We celebrated more, communicated more (monthly town halls to celebrate global teams), prioritized inclusivity and equality — and we hit our numbers together.
- Our end of the year employee RepTrak survey spoke volumes about how the leadership team had risen to the challenge of building a culture that leveraged more data and technology, was faster, and more human.
7. Focus on the product. Ri’s core product is RepTrak. It is excellent and has been on the market for more than 20 years. But we had forgotten its simple elegance and spent time emphasizing subject matter expertise at the expense of the core model for which we are globally recognized. We re-engaged with our core product and led with the idea of RepTrak everywhere.
8. Move to digital transformation. We acknowledged the requirement of a digital transformation to help lead us to new frontiers. We began by implementing tech enablement internally and within our client output. We also hired a seasoned chief product and technology officer to execute on a strategy to enhance our tech and product offerings. And finally (so far!), we acquired a company in Canada that will add to our machine learning capabilities while growing our client base.
It has now been over one year since I joined Ri and I am more confident than ever in the strength of this team, its reignition and focus on growth. And I’m confident that the leadership actions I took as a new CEO helped to get us here. As for year #2 and beyond… “Onward!”