Time, talent, and relationships

There are three fundamental resources that executives must manage during a transition: time, talent, and relationships.

Deloitte’s research and insights from its transition labs suggest there are three fundamental resources that executives must manage during a transition: time, talent, and relationships. Focusing on these three resources can help you cut through the inherent bustle of an executive transition and unlock your organization’s potential.

Time: The flood of issues crossing an incoming executive’s desk can be overwhelming. As an incoming or newly promoted executive, you need to develop a clear sense of your organization’s priorities while keeping the existing engines running. We often hear about 60–80-hour work weeks at the outset as incoming executives get pulled into meetings and launch their listening tours to get a handle on the issues.

As an incoming executive, you generally have to address four issues to garner better control of your time:

  1. Establish a realistic timeframe, as I discussed in my last essay, and dispense with the myth of the first 90 or 100 days. Unless you’re addressing an emergency, this is usually not enough time to drive meaningful results on the important things. Often, we find incoming executives—for example, a CIO joining a retailer in June and having to focus almost exclusively on Cyber Monday and e-commerce through the Christmas season—pulled in other directions before moving more broadly to frame an IT agenda. So much for the first 90 days.
  2. Establish relationships with key stakeholders. Influential and good relationships with key stakeholders make it easier to move your agenda forward. It’s critical to spend time establishing a personal, one-on-one connection and hearing their concerns and needs. So, in the initial months, listening tours take time.
  3. Establish three to five key priorities, and make some tangible progress on them in the first six months of your tenure. Make these priorities—and their value—"elevator ready" by succinctly framing them.
  4. After 30–45 days, take an audit of where your team’s time is going, and decide what must be stopped. Kill the unproductive meetings or the less important projects that drain you and your best talent so you can focus more productively on your most important priorities.

Time is your one irrecoverable resource, so it is imperative to prioritize and guard it during a transition.

Talent: No senior executive could do their job alone, and you are dependent on your new team to deliver results from day one. Generally, executives have to address a talent agenda with the following four items fairly quickly after a transition:

  1. Get the right people in the right seats. This can entail assessing the inherited staff and recruiting or reassigning staff to effectively deliver key priorities.
  2. Establish a high-performing leadership “team.” Often, incoming executives inherit broken organizations and teams with each direct report driving isolated initiatives. Resetting these behaviors and establishing a team can be vital to delivering key priorities.
  3. Set a talent development agenda. You want to get the best out of your people and build a sustained organization. To do so may require a broad, talent-development agenda—from training to coaching key staff, rotating some people into key development positions, and developing succession plans. Showing a strong commitment to talent early can help retain and motivate staff.
  4. Design your organization for the future. The organization you inherit is often designed for the previous leader. It is important to design the organization to best serve you as well as the future needs of your company.

Given that talent is key to your success, you are likely to spend between a half day and a full day each week to execute your talent agenda. I will expand on the talent agenda in future essays.

Relationships: New executives have to foster relationships with a wide range of stakeholders during their transitions. Dialogues with stakeholders can shape priorities, and good relationships make it easier to move forward on key priorities. In our research and labs, the unhappiest executives are vexed by relationship issues. Thus, establishing good relationships is vital to transition success, and again, it can take up considerable time. Fortunately, there are a wide range of tools available today to help executives develop influence strategies and assess the needs, personalities, and communication styles that are effective with other stakeholders to accelerate relationship building. These will also be explored in future essays.

Takeaway: Effectively managing time, talent, and relationships can help you accelerate the creation of a focused agenda and realistic execution plans that enhance the likelihood of a successful transition.