Here are five steps that will help you prepare to step into the C-suite:
Join the team. Approach your new assignment on the executive as starting a new job with a new team. Think about ways you can make that team more effective, even if others don’t approach it as a team or the CEO doesn’t manage it that way.
Focus your efforts on building long-term stakeholder value. The job the company needs you to do as an executive is a offer strategic guidance to increase the long-term value of the organization to all its stakeholders. Contribute your specialized knowledge and accrued business wisdom. Learn everything you can about the areas where you don’t specialize and how they work in combination to build long-term value.
Identify the balance of power. Even though you may have an idea going in, double check your assumptions based on first-hand observations of how executives relate to one another. Check out the body language, displays of power and preference. Who has what assets? How do they compete? Where are the vulnerabilities? Who do you need to partner with to contribute to the achievement of company goals.
Diversify your “conflict mode”. Develop a full range of styles to communicate and collaborate with your fellow executives Find ways to compete more assertively if you’re the type that prizes harmony and happy win-win scenarios. Chances are you’ll get run over by power brokers. Likewise, if you’re the take-no-prisoners type, develop a way of making sure your powerful peers feel respected and willing to trust you.
Find a mentor on the board. Whether formally or informally, mentorship by a board member will help you see around corners, establish solid footing, and find ways of avoiding “newbie” mistakes on the Executive team. If you don’t feel comfortable with your own company’s board, find someone who’s a veteran from other company boards.