16th Oct 2014

The First 100 Days of Balfour Beatty’s next CEO, Leo Quinn

 The announcement yesterday that Leo Quinn is to take the hot seat in Balfour Beatty from January 1st has been well received on the two platforms that seem to matter the most these days: the London Stock Exchange and Twitter! Quinn, who started his career at the company as a civil engineer in 1979, has had successful stints as CEO at a number of companies in the interim including De La Rue, and most recently, British defence, aerospace and security company Qinetiq. Balfour Beatty has struggled in recent times, and has issued a number of profit warnings this year. Quinn is, on paper at least, the ideal candidate for the job and his track record turning businesses around suggests that he is exactly what the company needs at present. Quinn will have his work cut out for him as leadership is a tricky business – particularly when tasked with a turnaround. In my opinion, planning, both long term and short term is fundamental for successful leadership. In particular, planning in the three areas of strategy, people and results (and having the ability to communicate what has been planned effectively) is the key to a successful leadership transition and leadership tenure.


Planning for a new leadership role needs to happen early. Before commencing in a new role, a leader needs to develop their strategy and create their first 100 days plan. This allows the leader to communicate and execute against their strategy in the first 100 days. Quinn will need to articulate his vision for the company early on, and set the company on a course for recovery by communicating what is needed clearly and effectively. When a company is experiencing difficulty, it is important that staff feel that there is purpose and a vision in place. Tough business decisions will be better received if there is a greater purpose and there is a clear vision and strategy in place.


Secondly, Quinn will need to focus on people. As a leader it is essential to inspire your team and demonstrate the ability to lead the way. One of the first challenges that Quinn faces will be to re-energise the company’s workforce. In any turnaround situation employee morale is often very low. The announcement of Quinn as CEO, will go some way to re-energising staff. However, Quinn will need to take advantage of this and demonstrate early that positive change is afoot. He will need to take people with him and show loyalty to those valuable employees who have been performing well.


Finally, a leader needs to achieve results. In the first 100 days, the new leader needs to justify their appointment by achieving some tangible results quickly while staying focussed on measurable longer term deliverables. Quinn already has an early win under his belt – the positive reception both on social media and on the stock market even before he officially commences the role. However, In his first 100 days, he needs to register more early wins by successfully closing out elements of his strategy.


Colm Flood

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