Leadership

CEO to CEO: Tips for New Leaders

By /
Jun 1, 2015

It’s your first day as the new CEO at an association. What’s on your agenda?

Julie Woffington

Executive Director, Educational Theatre Association, Cincinnati

The most important activity for day one is to set the tone, which, for me, means listening to the expertise of the existing team and sharing optimism and big dreams for the future. I’d do this by (1) setting up individual appointments with each staff member, board member, and key volunteers to hear their thoughts on what is going well and what needs to change; and (2) gathering all staff together to present myself, including my leadership philosophy, background, and hopes and expectations.

Mona BuckleyMona Buckley

CEO, Professional Insurance Marketing Association, Chicago

Your priorities on day one should include calling all board members, starting with the president and working through the officers by rank. Then, conduct some sort of group or icebreaker activity with all staff while also spending some one-on-one time with senior and direct reports. A tip for getting ahead on the work of the association: I always find reading the board minutes from the past year or two to be a great activity to begin with.

John E. Courtney, Ph.D.John E. Courtney, Ph.D.

Executive Officer, American Society for Nutrition, Bethesda, Maryland

If this is your first day on the job as a new CEO and you haven’t developed your 100-day plan, you are already well behind the curve and at risk of becoming what Anne Fisher describes in her book, New Job? Get a Headstart Now, as the 40 percent of new CEOs who fail within the first 18 months. Your first day should be preceded by research and conversations with board members, key staff, stakeholders, and the previous CEO. Your first day starts when you accept the job, not when you show up in the office.

Norman L. FortenberryNorman L. Fortenberry

Executive Director, American Society for Engineering Education, Washington, DC

On the first day, it’s critically important to establish a rapport with all employees. An all-staff meeting is appropriate to let everyone see you in your new role and to let them ask you questions. I think it’s also important to draft a substantive communication to the membership of your key priorities and plans for the organization. A third key task is to sit down with your direct reports and ask what they’re most proud of, what keeps them up at night, and what is one audacious goal they have.

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