Exec 101 - Elected not selected

01/13/20

Subscribe to my newsletter here or check out the rest of my writing here. My email is sriram@sriramk.com or you can always find me on Twitter at @sriramk


[This is part of my series on leading teams - see here for the entire section]

“You’re the CEO of an 80-person fast growing unicorn now looking at doubling headcount within months. But you are starting to feel out of touch with the pulse of the organization and you’re not sure how to reach all of them”

“You’re the newly installed CEO taking over after a bruising, public board search. Now you’re trying to figure out what to tell the exhausted, demotivated team.”

“You’re the new engineering lead and you know you have to have the team move to a new redesign or drown in tech debt. But the old timers on the team won’t let you.”

Any of this sound familiar? If you’re settling into a new leadership role - anything from CEO to first time manager - a common mistake is to assume your old communication “muscles” will be sufficient. In almost every case, you need to relearn and reset how you communicate to the team. A “new” role can also be you taking on a different/more expanded role in the same company or sometimes, your company just growing quickly!

Here’s what you have to remember. You have to be “elected” even if you have been “selected” 1, 2. You need broad buy in from the teams you are now responsible for that you’re the best person to lead them.

Wait, what? You just went through months of vetting and interviews to get this role. Or you went through years of consistent performance to finally get this promotion?

Yes you did.

No one cares.

Especially not the new teams and people who report up to you. They don’t know you and at best you can hope they have a vaguely optimistic and positive view on your new role.

Your primary task is now to get “elected” to this role or in other words convincing the people who come in to work every day for you that you’re the best person to lead them and oversee this stage of their careers. The longer you go without this, the harder it will be for you to help the organization achieve their potential.

Every new elected government is given “100 days” by the press/the opposition to settle in before they get the heat turned on them. You should expect a similar period of time - if you’re lucky - before you’re expected to demonstrate your impact and why you deserve all those RSUs.

We will cover how to do that when you’re also barely figuring out the company and the people and what your job is in the next few posts!

Topics coming up

  1. Management by storytelling - the ‘hero’s journey and kayfabe’
  2. Three themes and repetition

But until them remember - “elected”, not “selected”

Notes:

  1. I have used this phrase for years and was pleasantly surprised when I saw Disney’s Bob Iger talk about the same concept in his book.
  2. Doesn’t apply if you were the original founder or someone with historical authority.