It would be tempting for Joseph Ianniello to think the replacement of Richard Parsons by Strauss Zelnick as CBS’s interim Chairman is no big deal. After all, he survived the CBS-Viacom board battle and court case. He survived the debacle of Les Moonves’ MeToo meltdown and came out on top as Interim CEO when Parsons came in and cleaned things up. Tempting to think no big deal, but wrong. Ianniello needs to hit a reset button and act like he’s in a new job with a new boss.
As I’ve said throughout this series, executive onboarding is the key to accelerating success and reducing risk in a new job. People generally fail in new executive roles because of poor fit, poor delivery or poor adjustment to a change down the road. They accelerate success by 1) getting a head start, 2) managing the message, 3) setting direction and building the team and 4) sustaining momentum and delivering results. Ianniello’s situation is particularly complicated as an interim leader with a new interim boss.
Fellow Forbes contributor Jonathan Berr described just how complicated this is in his article on Richard Parsons’ Abrupt Departure From CBS Board Adds To Backstage Drama. Ianniello needs to apply interim leadership thinking and new boss thinking at the same time, now.
- Environment: Understand the context including whether the job is yours to lose or not.
- Values: Understand what matters and why – what you must accomplish and what principles you cannot violate.
- Attitude: Adopt the right attitude for the situation, making appropriate strategic, posture and cultural choices.
- Relationships: Whether the leadership role is permanent of interim, the heart of leadership is always connecting with other.
- Behaviors: In an interim role think in terms of two time frames for impact: things that impact current results and things that lay the foundation for future results.
- Foundation: Treat your new boss decently as a human being. Make him or her feel welcome, valued and valuable. Enable the new boss to do good work. Do your job well – not the boss’.
- Attitude: Choose to be optimistic. Believe the best about your new boss. Focus on these positives at all times with all people.
- Approach: Proactively tell your new boss that you want to be part of the new team and follow up with actions to reinforce this.
- Learning: Present a realistic and honest game plan to help the boss learn. Seek out the new boss’s perspective early and often, and be open to new directions.
- Expectations: Understand and move on your new boss’ agenda immediately. Know the boss’ priorities. Know what the new boss thinks your priorities should be.
- Implementation: Adjust to your new boss’ working style immediately. This is a hard shift, not an evolution around control points, decision-making and communication.
- Delivery: Be on your “A” game. Be present and “on” – everything done by you and your team will be part of your new boss’ evaluation of you. Deliver early wins that are important to your new boss and to the people he or she listens to. In a restart, the score is reset. Your old wins and your team’s old wins are history.
Implications for Ianiello
- Interim thinking: The job is his to lose. He must continue to help clean up the current mess while also laying the foundation for future results during his tenure as permanent CEO.
- New boss: The key for him is not to assume anything. He needs to reapply for the interim role while continuing to prove himself for the permanent role. He needs to move on Zelnick’s agenda and adapt to Zelnick’s style now.
- Deliver results: What matters most to everyone at CBS is results. Iannello and his team need to continue to win. That covers a multitude of sins.