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Brain circuits

Are you moving fast enough as a new CEO?

Published 28 March 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

Newly appointed CEOs and other senior leaders must concentrate their energy on getting the right people around them, as failure to act quickly can have serious consequences. What is the most common regret I hear from senior executives who have transitioned into new roles? Regardless of whether they were promoted internally or hired from the outside, the answer is the same: not moving quickly enough to get the right team in place. 

Executives who learned this lesson the hard way noted three main consequences:

An overload of work: They didn’t have the people they needed to develop and realize their vision and strategy, so they and others on the team had to shoulder more of the load themselves.

An opportunity for politics to interfere with the agenda: A failure to move fast opened the door to divisive political maneuvering by underperformers trying to delay the inevitable, or disappointed rivals still fighting the last war.

Loss of credibility: This is more subtle but can be the most damaging effect of not taking swift action to set up your own team. Executives who failed to do this have noted it raised questions about their ability to make hard calls. Remember – people will be watching and will know when you aren’t moving fast enough to fix obvious problems.


Michael Watkins - IMD Professor

Michael D. Watkins

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD

Michael D Watkins is author of The First 90 Days, Master Your Next Move, Predictable Surprises, and 11 other books on leadership and negotiation. A Thinkers 50-ranked management influencer and recognized expert in his field, his work features in HBR Guides and HBR’s 10 Must Reads on leadership, teams, strategic initiatives, and new managers. He taught at Harvard, where he gained his PhD in decision sciences, and INSEAD before joining IMD, where he directs The First 90 Days and Transition to Business Leadership programs.


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