CFO MAGAZINE ON MANAGING
THE FIRST 90 DAYS OF A NEW LEADERSHIP ASSIGNMENT
First 90 Days - CFO.com
while discussing his post-Velvet Revolution rise to power in the Czech Republic,
former Czech president Vaclav Havel described "a sensation of the absurd,
what Sisyphus might have felt if one day his boulder stopped, rested on the hilltop,
and failed to roll back down."
CFO who's finally landed a job after a lengthy job search can relate. In the current
job market , where interviews are increasingly more grueling, background checks
ever more thorough, and hiring criteria more exacting, a job search can sometimes
resemble a bus tour through Hades.
employed, however, CFOs face a new dilemma: how do you start the job off right?
answer, according to Dr. Laurence Stybel, CEO of career-management firm
Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire, can be summed up in two words that CFOs know
well: risk management. "It's the tenor of the time," he notes,
referring to the weak economy, when candidates invest heavily in the job
search and in some cases make sacrifices (pay cuts, relocation) to get a job.
from the employer's perspective, recruiting and hiring a top executive is expensive.
According to one estimate by Hay Associates, the hiring process costs a
company about 70 percent of the new hire's base salary.
the first 100 days, mistakes count more," says Stybel. "The same
mistake, even six months later, won't weigh as much" as during those
first crucial months.
chart the right course from the get-go, many companies are hiring coaches for
top executives in their first 90 to 100 days on the job, according to a
report in the Boston Globe. Executive-search firms are also getting in on the
act, adding transition services to their list of offerings. Aside from enlisting professional
help, new CFOs can also employ some career risk-management strategies of
by arming yourself with knowledge. "Get up the learning curve as much as
possible, before you get on the job, if you can," advises Michaels
Watkins, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the upcoming
book The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for Leaders at All
recommends meeting with the boss and your team to establish expectations and
boundaries formally within the first five days of the new job. Use this meeting
to get specific details. What things can I unilaterally change without consulting
my boss? What things should I consult my boss on before making changes? When
should I defer the final decision to my boss? Get to know what needs to
change, what must stay in place, and what to avoid at all costs. Again, the
goal is to avoid mistakes during the first few months.
instance, if your new employer recently deployed new financial management software,
it may not be a good idea to trash the application in a meeting, or rave
about a rival program. "[Co-workers] may say, 'I don't care how good the
other software is. I just spent money on this; I'm not switching,'"
explains Stybel. "If you know this ahead of time, fine. "Indeed, ignorance of such boundaries may
result in a misstep that could cost a new CFO time and credibility.
the first two weeks, spend as little time in your office as possible. "The office has a computer with
a spreadsheet on it," Stybel points out. "I think for CFOs, that's
a sort of emotional teddy bear. It makes you feel like you're doing
Stybel recommends that new finance chiefs talk to colleagues and team members
and ask questions. And make sure you go to them; don't summon them to your
also says it's crucial to build relationships and coalitions early. Get to
know the line executives and find out how to empower them. Think also about coalitions
with those outside the company, such as journalists and investors.
the biggest challenges for several months into the job. Instead, take on problems
where you know you can succeed. "Think about how to get those early wins
to build credibility and momentum," says Watkins. Finally, enter with an
open mind; don't assume you have The Answer. "To walk in to a group of
people who think they're successful and say, 'This is all wrong,'" says
Watkins, "or to tell them their competitor does it better, is a one-way ticket
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