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The Secrets of Successful Executive Transitions to the C-Suite with Navid Nazemian (Ep. #49)

The BetterManager Team
Building Better Managers Podcast Episode 49 - Navid Nazemian

Building Better Managers Podcast Episode #49: The Secrets of Successful Executive Transitions to the C-Suite with Navid Nazemian

Leadership transitions can be tough to execute. In fact, more than 40% of executive transitions fail within the first 18 months. And sadly, this isn’t a new phenomenon — which leads us to the big questions of why this keeps occurring and what can organizations do about it.

Joining us this week is Navid Nazemian, an executive coach and unparalleled expert on executive transitions to the C-Suite. Navid is the author of “Mastering Executive Transitions: The Definitive Guide” and has helped the executives at some of the world’s most admired organizations successfully manage transitions into new roles.

Navid’s research identified three major reasons for these failures: people, culture, and politics. It’s not the case that organizations choose incompetent officers, but rather it’s these so-called “soft topics” that most often get in the way! And when transitions go wrong, entire organizations suffer.

In this episode:

Meet Navid Nazemian

  • Navid helps executives and their leadership teams accelerate and successfully transition into new roles. He is the author of Mastering Executive Transitions - The Definitive Guide, a #1 new release and bestseller on Amazon.
  • Navid is an unparalleled expert and a thought leader in executive transitions, having lived and successfully worked in five countries across six sectors and working with C-level leaders on the same as an Executive Transition Coach. He brings to the table an eclectic background that spans over two decades of human resources experience in some of the world’s most admired organizations at country, regional and global leadership level, in both emerging and developed markets.
  • Navid's passion lies in supporting executives during critical transitions, as he is inspired by their courage to deliver value to their organization while staying true to their authentic selves.

The Top Challenges

  • Navid did a meta study of executive transition failures to find the top 10 reasons and core themes.
  • The three main reasons were shown to be:  People, Culture and Politics. So it's not so much the case of organizations hiring someone that's incompetent - it's more often that case that these "soft" skills got in the way.
  • The easiest part of the research was finding examples of high-profile transition failures. One example, SAP, a very successful organization, always had a co-CEO structure in place. They appointed Jennifer Morgan to be the new co-CEO, the first woman to head a company on Germany's DAX index. But shortly after that appointment the organization had to make a surprise move and let her go as co-CEO, paying her a severance of $2 million.
  • When making appointments at the this level, and they don't work out in such a short period of time, it is one or more of those three factors that were the cause.
  • Right now to help reverse these trends, many industry leaders are stepping up, but the wider the support becomes, the better.

The Cost of Failure

  • First, the C-Suite transition failure rate is around 40%, so this is an extremely important topic.
  • Attrition in the C-Suite is generally estimated to cost the organization around 1-2.5 times the salary of the person leaving. That figure is simply an outdated concept. These days the number is much higher. The real cost is more like 10-30 times the salary of the executive.
  • If we imagine a situation where the organization appoints a Chief Sales Officer and after 6 months it's clear it is not going to work out. Now, can you imagine how competitors will be all over that company's key accounts and gaining market share?
  • The confidence, engagement and morale of the sales organization won't be great. The people passed over for the job are often actively exploring options outside the company. This one appointment failure must have ripple effects all the way throughout the organization. That's how the 10 to 30 times figure becomes real very quickly.

How Organizations Can Facilitate Successful Transitions

  • The first one is the executive is supported by a transition coach. And that's one of the one of the easiest things organizations can provide - there are many leaders who are trained and qualified to do that.
  • The second is to make sure as an organization, that sufficient amount of effort is spent on the real parts of the executive onboarding process.
  • Egon Zehnder's The First 90 Days is a very popular book and 85+ percent of organizations actually do a good job in the generic onboarding program.
  • But when it comes to the executive level, Zehnder's research shows how the percentages start to drop significantly - in the higher value onboarding items the figure drops to 52%.
  • Aligning expectations with teams and line managers, only 50% organizations get that right.
  • Organizing meetings with key stakeholders, that figure drops to 33%.
  • Cultural familiarization/assimilation is handled well by only 29% of organizations
  • In another study 400 CEOs were asked about their onboarding experiences, and 70% of those CEOs came back to say they were underwhelmed, or that there was no structured onboarding process in place. When the number one person in the organization gets that kind of experience, imagine what the experience is going to be like for everyone else.

What Executives Can Do To Succeed

  • Phase 1 is Discover. This actually starts up to 3 months before formally starting in the new position. In this process of discovery, the person must get to know the new organization, the new position, the context, the stakeholders, deep dive into numbers, and so on, actively preparing to be successul.
  • Phase 2 is called Immerse. It may seem like there's no action really required or suggested, but the first 120 days one needs to just absorb information, really trying to make sense of what you're coming across, always bearing in mind that Culture, People and Politics are the top three aggregate reasons for failure.
  • Then Phase 3, Adapting, can be done in the most informed, effective way possible.

Downloads & Resources

Follow Navid on LinkedIn here, on Twitter, and on his website MasteringExecutiveTransitions.com.

Get Navid's book Mastering Executive Transitions - The Definitive Guide on Amazon.

Subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform!

Check out our blog articles on Leadership here.

Navid Nazemian

Navid helps executives and their leadership teams accelerate and successfully transition into new roles. He is the author of Mastering Executive Transitions - The Definitive Guide, a #1 new release and bestseller on Amazon.

Navid is an unparalleled expert and a thought leader in executive transitions, having lived and successfully worked in five countries across six sectors and working with C-level leaders on the same as an Executive Transition Coach. He brings to the table an eclectic background that spans over two decades of human resources experience in some of the world’s most admired organizations at country, regional and global leadership level, in both emerging and developed markets.

His passion lies in supporting executives during critical transitions. Navid is inspired by their courage to deliver value to their organization while staying true to their authentic selves.

Episode Transcript
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