Large companies are able to craft robust succession plans, while the middle market and smaller companies often have difficulty finding and retaining successors. CEOs impact the company’s strategy, execution and ultimately business and financial performance.
Finding the right CEO is the Board of Directors’ most important task. From the board perspective, no one on the outside could understand completely all of the nuances of your business, culture and your company’s situation within the industry better than an insider. External candidates will always need time to adjust and require guidance and support of the board to succeed.
So just how do you find the right CEO?
First: In order to get what you want, you have to know what you want. What are your objectives? What is working and what is not working with your current situation? What criteria are you going to measure each candidate against? How will you measure success once you hire the person?
Second: It is always a good idea to explore multiple scenarios and plan for contingencies. It may take a little bit longer than you would like to find the right person. Do you have a member of the board of directors step in temporarily? Do you hire an interim executive? Who within the company could take on some of the responsibility?
Third: Assign a board member to oversee the search, and drive for results. This person needs to make finding the right CEO their highest priority. Often it is best if this is not assigned to the Chairman, but to another board member. This person works to define the expectations and goals for the position, works with the executive search professional to develop a position description, performs the initial interviews, and helps build consensus among the board members, and assists in creating a smooth recruiting and hiring process, which is important to attract quality talent.
Fourth: Look for qualities that are universal to high-level performers. Some of the things you want to look for are:
- Track record of demonstrated Good Judgment
- Capable (experience with a similar situation/ industry) and Capacity Builder
- High Energy and High Endurance
- Visionary and Strategic Leader
- Inspiring, Courageous and Compassionate
- History of Building Productive Relationships with colleagues, partners, and other stakeholders
- Embraces Change and Leads through Change
Fifth: Engage an executive search firm, and work with the firm to:
- Manage and drive the process.
- Build consensus among board members.
- Remain objective about the hire. We know how chemistry can result in a poor choice and will help you avoid deciding on pure chemistry.
- Reach out to people outside of your network. You will see more and possibly better talent.
- Create a decision partner. This is someone who has worked with many companies at these decision points and who understands the pressures you are under. Someone you can trust to help you come to the right decision.
- Create a choice. Ultimately, you want to choose between 2 or 3 very appropriate candidates, each of whom could do the job. The only decision then becomes, “Who is the very best for us?”
- Be a negotiation partner. Often recruiters can help you build trust with the chosen candidate during the negotiation process by becoming an interested negotiator, and help keep emotions to a minimum during the often tricky offer process.
Solid CEO’s are hard to find. The process is sometimes difficult to manage without the assistance of a search professional. A good search professional will keep the process moving quickly to a solution, build consensus, and minimize pure emotional decision making. In most cases, working with a search professional provides you with a pool of higher quality candidates from which to choose. A good search professional will take most of the heavy lifting out of finding and securing the Right CEO.