After months of turmoil, uncertainty, investor fears and a failed initial public offering (IPO) that led to the ouster of founder Adam Neumann, the real estate and sharing start-up WeWork announcedOpens a new window a new chief executive.
Earlier, the company said that real estate executive Sandeep Mathrani would assume control from two co-executives who had taken over the helm of the company in the interim. But in the wake of such a tumultuous time at the start-up, Mathrani will have his work cut out for him.
In a statementOpens a new window , Mathrani said that WeWork, â€œhas redefined how people and companies approach work with an innovative platform, exceptionally talented team and significant potential if we stick to our shared values and maintain our members-first focus.â€
That emphasis on positive aspects that the company can retain is a good and smart first step. For leaders taking over a company that is struggling and under intense pressure, there a few other key steps that can help make the transition successful even in the most challenging of times.
Acknowledge those challenges
No leader can begin a successful tenure at the helm of a company by trying to sugarcoat reality or omitting the full picture, especially when the company has been under an intense microscope by investors, analysts and the interested public. As the new leader begins hers or his tenure, they should be honest about their assessment of the situation and what she or he faces. It’s okay also to acknowledge that the full picture is still outstanding. Honesty is the best way to establish trustOpens a new window from the very first day.
Consult with former employees
The people who are at the company and who have been there through turmoil and turnover are the best placed to describe the problems with previous leadership. Canvassing those staffers will impart a detailed understanding of departments and functions where the business needs to be structurally strengthened, while also helping to draw a blueprint of areas where trust needs to be rebuilt.
Be open about changes
As new leadership wraps up the period of consultation, the transformations that need to occur immediately will likely become clear. Enormous upheavals should be saved for at least a few weeks after taking the helm, but announcing a few key changes at the beginning will send a clear message that the old culture is out and a new one is about to begin.
Establish an open door policy
It may not necessarily be enough to consult with key employees in the early days and weeks. At times, the perspectives of the least forthcoming or less-extroverted employees can be the most valuable when they can be teased out. By creating and maintaining an open-door policy that allows employees to approach with any concerns, employees who may not otherwise get the first word will be encouraged to approach with their insights and feedback.
Create a handbook
With time, as the problems that stymied the company become increasingly clear, the areas most in need of addressing will emerge. But a handbook isn’t just a repository of areas for improvement and standards to uphold. It should serve as an opportunity to outline company values that can act as a guidepost as both the new leadership and the company itself move into the future.