Insights & Ideas

CEO onboarding best practices

CEO onboarding checklist: Four critical components

When a new CEO is chosen, onboarding is critical to their success. Remarkably, 40% of senior leaders fail within 18 months of assignment. This failure is most often due to an inadequate onboarding process without a strong CEO onboarding plan. A solid transition—spanning a full year—will give your new CEO a strong start.

Salo Advisory recommends a transition plan that includes four best practices for onboarding a new CEO.

1. Knowledge-sharing with the leadership team

Getting insights from the senior leadership team is crucial for all incoming CEOs, including those who were promoted from within the organization.

Your CEO onboarding plan should include frequent in-depth discussions with the outgoing CEO that provide:

  • Coaching and feedback
  • Insights on the operating styles, histories, and expectations of board members/senior management
  • Expectations of stakeholder constituencies (e.g., investors, creditors, customers, analysts, and regulators)

Additional conversations with members of the senior management team can add extra context and prevent biases.

2. Stakeholder communication

Following a briefing period, the incoming CEO should be introduced to the company’s stakeholders in a series of information-gathering sessions. This allows the outgoing CEO to gracefully pass the baton, while simultaneously building support and goodwill from other constituents—especially stakeholders the incoming CEO has not interacted with before.

3. A robust written plan

Continue your CEO onboarding checklist with a detailed timeline. With the involvement and support of the senior management team, develop a timeline that outlines the orderly transition of roles and responsibilities. If the appointment is an internal promotion, this includes the elevation of the executive who takes over the new CEO’s former position. If the outgoing CEO remains as a chairperson, that role needs to be clearly defined to avoid interference with the new CEO.

4. Board involvement

It’s important that the board sees the new CEO as the new leader—even if the new CEO is already known to the board. The new leader can be phased into board meetings over time. To the extent possible, the outgoing CEO should provide coaching and feedback to his or her successor throughout the board introduction process.

Need help with your succession planning process?

Salo Advisory can help you succeed—whether you’re just starting a succession planning process or you’re stuck somewhere in the middle. Whether you need help creating a CEO onboarding checklist or want insights on other CEO onboarding best practices, Salo has the experience, tools, and processes to help you succeed. Contact us to learn more.

David Kuhl
David Kuhl

David Kuhl

Salo Advisory Lead

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