Successfully transitioning into your first CEO role by Nick Roud Executive Coach

by | Dec 14, 2021

Your first CEO job and making it work by Nick Roud Executive Coach, New Zealand

When we bought Louie (our first child) home from the hospital it was a truly life changing moment. I had just recovered from shingles and whilst on top of the world still just putting on a brave face and not really having a clue what to do.

As I reflect back on that time almost six years ago, Nicola and I regularly talk about having no idea how to be a parent, nor having a manual on how to be great parents (only time will tell on that).

We had friends and family telling us we should do this or / no you should do that. It got to the point that Nic and I agreed that we would gratefully receive all thoughts, feedback and insights from those willing to share their point of view but between us we would make all decisions together and this has been our team mantra ever since.

This year I have coached many outstanding CEOs here in New Zealand and other parts of the world on their leadership. Common theme shared with me during our coaching sessions is the lack of any CEO ‘manual’, just like bringing Louie home for the very first time, none of them had a CEO ‘manual.

Many of the CEOs who I coach have been CEO’s for a few years and at first wrestled with being the CEO. They share common views of how turbulent life as a CEO really is. One described it like being in charge of a Boeing 747 sitting at 30,000 feet then realising you have no wings! Hopefully that gives you a small taste of being a CEO right now.

view from the flight deck or should I say the CEO seat

‘Leadership is not for everyone’.
— Nick Roud | Executive Coach

For argument’s sake, let’s say a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will be in his/her position for on average 7 years (research from a variety of search firms data). They may well have spent 15-20 in leadership positions before stepping into the CEO seat. So how does the newly appointed CEO step into his/her first CEO position and what evidence makes for a successful transition? 

Some thoughts as you transition

  • Really work through the pros and cons of taking on such a role.

    • Ensure you face the big elephant in the room – get it out and get it sorted

  • Appreciate what you are their to do!

  • Build your own rhythm 

  • Spend the first 30/60 days doing nothing just meeting people and understanding where they are all coming from (build this into a regular annual event)……

  • Spend time with your Board (get away from the office)

  • Get your people to the table – make sure you involve all levels of your business (not just the leadership team) sometimes the best thoughts come from the quietest of places! 

  • Spend time with your contractors, customers, suppliers etc

  • If you have chosen to go for it then give it ‘the kitchen sink’ throw your heart and sole into it, surround yourself with only those people who want the very best of you and avoid the ‘yes’ brigade. 

    • Let go of the past – it’s happened, build a bridge and breathe life into today and tomorrow

Transitioning into the CEO position is not for the faint hearted nor is it a seat that will allow for complaincenty, just because you have finally got the title doesn’t mean you should take anything for granted. Your people will make you a leader not your title! 

Specifics to consider in the lead up to taking on a CEO role

  1. What is your pledge, live by it but don’t be afraid to adjust as you see fit?

  2. How are you going to actually measure your success +  failures

  3. What are your non-negotiables

  4. What will you ‘actually’ do. Again what are YOU going to do!

  5. Build/Create an ‘external’ Board of Directors (trusted go to people)/mentors/coaches?

  6. Create your belief system (and share it with others)

It is absolutely critical that the Chair, Board and leadership group come together as one. As CEO it’s your job to ensure this actually happens, their needs to be a common language, a common cadence, a common directive and this starts with you. 

Build trust + relationships

Great leaders do exactly this!

It’s not uncommon for the CEO to have little or no hand over. On other occasions the incoming CEO will shadow the CEO for a couple of months to allow introductions etc to take place. 

The CEO job is completely different to any other C-suite executive. You can only plan so much, then you need to grab hold of both reins and trust in yourself.

You have been awarded this position because you are capable. The Board and Chair appreciate you and you have the full backing and support. You are not going to know every little detail of the business so don’t fall into the trap of needing to. 

As the CEO you don’t need to prove yourself to anyone and that includes yourself. Check yourself and make sure you are being true to your purpose and why you accepted this position.

Build trust and constent communication quickly without it you will struggle
— Nick Roud | Executive Coach

The CEO needs to quickly establish trust around the room. 

  1. Bring Your Authentic Game 

  2. Network outside the room build your board 

  3. Performance counts, but growth and development is a must 

  4. Seek out a mentor and don’t be tempted to find a mentor just like you

  5. Get used to not having air-bags any more

Failures of a CEO will come from

  1. Poor business performance

  2. Not doing what he/she said they will do

  3. Having a team of individuals and not gelling your SLT (senior leadership teams) together 

  4. Brining your ego into the room (leave it at the door)

  5. Relying on your past experiences + strategies to be successful ‘today’

Great CEOs and leaders invest in keeping themselves upto date on who they are as a leader, they do not lose touch with how others perceive them and regularly review their performance and purpose. 

It’s now your turn to ‘hold the baby’ as CEO you have a duty and responsibility to do everything you can ……. Their will never be a ‘CEO Manual’

Nick x

Nick Roud

Global Award Winning Executive Coach.


For a confidential conversation about your leadership coaching needs, call Nick on +6421375630 or email him

Nick Roud

Nick Roud

Executive Leadership Coach

Nick is the Chairman of Nick Roud Coaching and a Global Award Winning Executive Coach. Nick holds the highest coaching qualification MCEC. His clients are typically Chief Executive Officers, Executives and Emerging Leaders. Nick’s office is based in Auckland, New Zealand and he travels extensively around the world to coach his clients. You can contact Nick directly on +6421375630