Want to make an immediate impact as a company’s new CEO, chair or owner? Beware the rush to impose yourself and learn as much as you can from the staff, says Simon Jones of Hidden Value Partners
Rushing in, impatient for change, is a common tendency for new business leaders, but it doesn’t always bring good results. While it is easy to think we can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas, the chances are we won’t. It’s better to challenge yourself before your car crashes: what are the chances your ideas really will be either ‘new’ or ‘the answer’?
Also, what will be the impact on your relations with the company’s directors, senior managers and employees of a hasty introduction of new ideas or working methods?
Jumping into a new job with too much gusto is an easy mistake to make – plenty have fallen flat on their face before you. But ditch that impulse. Look instead right in front of you – at the staff.
They have years of experience in the business you are joining. And they will have a host of ideas that were unheard, untried or ignored by the former management – what we call the ‘hidden value’ of a business. Won’t they be a source of more pertinent, thought-through and realistic ideas – and more likely to provide the first steps to achieving your goals?
Hidden value inquiry – how it works
The staff’s ideas are collected using what we call a hidden value inquiry – this can also be used where there is a failing company division or subsidiary; during a business restructuring; or before redundancies to capture insights before ‘core intelligence’ leaves.
A hidden value inquiry should interview carefully selected representatives of all staff levels in a company – in-depth and in a positive way, with the board retaining ownership of the exercise – and supplement the results with business and market analysis.
It’s a skilled exercise, requiring highly qualified inquirers. And staff need to be met somewhere confidential, away from the workplace, so there are no time pressures and they are reassured their comments will be welcomed. (Yes, it’s a bit like ITV’s Undercover Boss – only with experienced inquirers, not a camera lens!)
The results of a hidden value inquiry can be spectacular. Our experience shows that the process can expose unrealised insights and hidden value in a company. It can create opportunities that were previously invisible. It can offer new vistas on familiar landscapes. And it can enable business turnaround, recovery and growth.
As for your first 100 days, the inquiry can help you avoid some of the trapdoors you face in a new post. The aim is to get you, the new leaders, fully informed about your staff’s insights and opportunities from day one. So when you do join, you join a workforce enthusiastic for change and feeling empowered by seeing you putting their own ideas, as approved by you, into action.
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