It is unusual for a CEO to announce their retirement right after making a gargantuan reorganization. Right now Microsoft needs stability, direction, clarity and strong leadership; but the question everyone will be asking is "Who will be the next CEO?".
Successful companies have their employees energy and time focussed on customers, products and profits. You only have to listen in to conversations in the company coffee line and hallways to find out what people are talking about. Too much energy wasted on rumor, speculation and hearsay is a major distraction.
If I were Steve Ballmer this would be my To Do list:
1. - Stabilize your Leadership Team
Give clarity on the short term goals, outline how you are going to make decisions and agree how you will disagree and reach conclusions. Be clear about how active you will remain as a CEO and when your leadership team can expect you to transition out. Set clear expectations for how you expect your Senior Leadership Team to lead their own organization during this significant change.
2. - Outline the CEO selection process
Explain to employees and outsiders the timetable and process for the CEO selection process and when more news will be shared. Too often in CEO transitions they take longer than anticipated and a void of leadership and decision making occurs. Internally energy is wasted on speculation rather than focussing on customers, products and profits. Make sure your leaders are absorbing and amplifying the right points with their teams.
3. - Reflect on your legacy and teach
Taking some time to reflect on the last 13 years as CEO. Decide what lessons you want to share with your Senior Leadership Team and your company. Start using story telling to share what you learned, what you wished you had done differently and your advice to leaders who will lead Microsoft into the future.
There is one epic failure for Microsoft: what happened to succession planning for the CEO? How could a company such as Microsoft not have the perfect leader waiting in the wings to be announced as Steve's successor? Too many leaders discount succession planning as an academic process that is not taken seriously.
Now months of distraction and speculation await Microsoft when instead employees should be focused on creating incredible products for Xbox, Surface, Office and Windows Phone customers everywhere.
What is the one thing you could be doing today to invest in planning for your leadership succession?