I like to use current news items as "coaching moments". The big news item this week: Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple Computer. The new CEO is Tim Cook, formerly the Chief Operating Officer at Apple.
Jobs's resignation press release mentions a "succession plan" involving Tim Cook. This is very interesting, because we haven't seen much of Tim Cook in any leadership role in the last several years. Steve Jobs was (arguably) the driving force behind the company. Part of successful leadership is identifying and developing the next generation of leaders. Except for this press release, there hasn't been demonstrable transition planning at Apple, no visible development of a future leader who could take Jobs's place when he eventually left the company.
But now, as Tim Cook steps into his new role, what advice would you give him? He faces a daunting task: Apple is losing a visionary iCEO, so Cook needs to demonstrate that he can play on that field too, and has a vision for his new role.
My recommendation to Cook: communicating through change. In successfully managing a change, steps 1 through 3 are usually "communication, communication, communication." The key is to provide a vision for what the change will deliver, and set an expectation for the general steps required to reach that vision. Even if your change isn't really a "change" per se, just a transition, it's still important to communicate openly about goals, so that everyone has an opportunity to participate and knows what will be expected of them.
Fortunately, Cook seems to be doing just that. Yesterday, he sent his first company-wide email as CEO. The message: Apple is not going to change. That's a great first step! Next, I expect Cook will sketch out his priorities for the next 6-12 months. We may also see an infusion of new talent. During this very public transition, I'd recommend Cook remain transparent.
What would you recommend?
My guess is Cook will have his "honeymoon" period as CEO until Apple announces the next iDevice. If Tim Cook can keep the spotlight on his transition, and not on the departing Steve Jobs, he should do well.