02nd Oct 2010

Adam Crozier's First 100 Days...

Lights, camera, action…

Adam Crozier, former joint Chief Executive of Saatchi & Saatchi, former Chief Executive of the Football Association and current Royal Mail CEO, is leaving his position to take up an even more high-profile role at troubled media giant ITV. As some media commentators have described it, “it looks like a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire”. 

The job certainly seems to be another tough brief for Mr. Crozier, a man who certainly doesn’t shy away from organisations with institutionalised challenges. ITV, like the Royal Mail, has a dense heritage of process and behavior not easily transformed and is an institution in deep trouble with an urgent need to modernize if it wants to remain a major sector player.

Let’s face it, the city is watching, the media is ready to pounce; the staff are anxious… it’s a massive job. And so, as founder and MD of First100, the question posed itself to me “how should Adam Crozier tackle his First 100 days?”

First, lets put in context why the First 100 days is an important stage in the role appointment lifecycle. Pace or ‘performance acceleration’ as I call it, is the number one critical business issue for Chief Executives and political leaders in todays economy. Faced with global uncertainty on whether we are in a V or W shaped recession, speed is the new black. A decade ago, a new leader would have arrived with a ten year business plan and allowed it to unfold, without much scrutiny from challengers. Nowadays, a two year plan is considered long term, and Crozier will appreciate the crucial importance of his first 100 days within that shrinking time context.

Okay, so pace is important. But this is hardly a breakthrough insight and Crozier is no stranger to the CEO role, so what possible advice could I give him? I don’t need to tell Crozier to act with pace, identify the right priorities, get the right team in place and stay focused on what’s important. This is grist to the mill for an experienced Chief Executive like him.

So I spent some time reading the articles, the recent press coverage and I thought about what is the insight I could bring him. He is a dynamic guy, has the intellect, the ability to get things done but – and this is my insight – I wonder if he pays enough attention to his legacy right from the beginning?

His career history makes interesting reading, and I wonder whether now is the time for Adam to reach his prime as a Chief Executive. He has had an accelerated career to the Chief Executive position, and perhaps he was promoted ‘too’ fast – so much so, that his ‘growing up’ was done in the role rather then in advance of the role. With this in mind, I would urge Adam Crozier to invest a lot more time upfront thinking about his leadership legacy this time round. And fortunately, he has the time before he takes up the ITV role.

So, here are my top three tips for Adam:

1. Invest more time upfront thinking about your legacy.

Take stock of your career, and start with the end in mind this time. What do you want to have achieved at ITV by the end of your tenure? Do you have any regrets from previous Chief Executive posts, what are the lessons learned, and how can you approach this role armed with the wisdom and experience of previous leadership roles. Are you still open to change, to challenge?

2. Envisage a 2 year role horizon:

When you have decided on your legacy as CEO of ITV, then envisage a 2 year role horizon, to inject a sense of pace and urgency into your thought processes and plans. Imagine that you only have two years to make a difference. Within that timeframe, what would you like to have achieved on Vision & Strategy, People & Teams, Results & Deliverables? It doesn’t matter if you plan to stay longer, you can always refresh your plans at the end of 2 years.

3. Don’t write your First 100 Days plan yet.

Repeat steps 1 and 2, until you are very sure of the leadership legacy you wish to leave behind, and until you are very sure of your two year plan as the first step to achieving that legacy. And so, although I am the founder and MD of First100 – a consultancy that specialises in ‘first 100 days’ advice for senior executives and CEOs, my urgent advice to Adam Crozier is don’t write you First 100 Days plan yet!

I wish you well. You have courage to take on this role, and we need our business leaders to show courage in these difficult times.

Niamh O’Keeffe, Founder and Managing Director of First100.

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