18 CEOs Give Advice on Your First Year in the C-Suite

Since the office of Chief Executive is held by so few individuals, it’s not always easy to get firsthand advice [...]

May 31 2012 by JP Donlon


Since the office of Chief Executive is held by so few individuals, it’s not always easy to get firsthand advice on steering an entire enterprise. As a part of  its 2011 survey on CEO turnover, Booz & Co. asked CEOs to weigh in on their first year in the C-suite.

The common thread as I see it among the responses is taking the time to listen to various internal and external constituencies before launching any major initiative. In some cases, this involved going around with the outgoing CEO. In most others it meant taking the temperature of the internal organization and asking people what they would like to see changed and retained. It gives the new person a perspective regardless of what he chooses to do. Very often the first job of a new CEO is to fix (or re-align) the culture in some way.

In my own view, even insiders discover something they didn’t quite expect or fully understand until they became CEO. The job sometimes comes with its own epiphanies. Our interview/profile of eBay CEO John Donahoe also references this in more detail.

The other item on Tim Cook foregoing a $75 million dividend at Apple falls under the category of the dog that didn’t bark. CEOs that defer compensation are one thing, but decline it altogether is something else. Of course Cook is one of the most highly compensated bosses anyway, but we don’t see folks in Wall Street doing this while at the same time allowing dividends to lower lever employees who are not yet fully vested. What a principle! Of course it helps if a company is sitting on oodles of cash.

Read: Navigating the First Year: Advice from 18 Chief Executives