05th Jun 2012

The internal hire: pros and cons

Last week Susan Adams published an article, New CEO Study Underlines Merits of Promoting From Within, in Forbes. Adams highlights some compelling evidence to support the notion that promoting internally is highly advantageous for any company. The internally appointed CEO is likely to stay in the position a year longer that the external hire, while the internal appointee is also better for their companies’s share price.

While the evidence is interesting, it should not over shadow the fact that for any internal appointee, a promotion can be a particularly challenging transition. Below I have outlined a number of key points for the internal appointee to consider, to get on track for a robust and successful first 100 days, despite the challenges inherent to being an internal hire:

Let go of your previous role

This is the crucial first step in starting any new role appointment. If you are promoted internally it is likely that you are already a known entity within the company, you have established reputation and formed relationships – you will have made friends. And so, it is understandably tempting to stay involved in the previous role. However, despite the relationships formed and the reputations established, you need to detach 100% from the old role and focus 100% on the new role.

However, in reality the internal appointee is often expected to straddle both roles for a time. In a new leadership role, it is crucial to accelerate performance from the very start – trying to overlap two jobs compromises your ability to do this. We strongly recommend negotiating a clear finishing date for the old role and appointing an interim if your successor is not found – to whom you can fully hand over. For yourself, and for your new team and old team, it is vital that the break between roles is distinct in order to start afresh.

Use your emotional intelligence

While every leader benefits from a high level of emotional intelligence, the internal appointee particularly needs to be adept at handling potentially contentious emotional issues. You will need to pay particular attention to colleagues who applied for your role but were not successful – you will have to manage people who were previously your peers. This can cause resentment, and resistance from your team to your mandate for change. This can be hugely taxing emotionally. A clear vision, complemented by patience and resilience, are necessary in meeting this challenge. Once the trust and respect of your team is gained, they will naturally follow your lead.

Deal effectively with your predecessor

Effectively implementing change can be very difficult if your role predecessor is still on the board. Any changes you suggest could be perceived as criticism of your still influential predecessor.It takes a delicate hand to deal with this situation efficiently. And it is absolutely paramount to make a meaningful impact as quickly as possible. To this end you should contract up front with the board that you will be allowed the space and freedom to effect change.

Hilda Goold

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