Sally Henderson
Powerful change from the inside out



The Common Pitfalls New Managing Directors can easily avoid.

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Are you new or recently promoted into the role of Managing Director?

If so, firstly, congratulations!  This is a pivotal moment for your career and leadership, as you transition from people and client ownership to being responsible for the business overall.

New MD’s can achieve amazing results quickly, with the right approach and investment, and I want to support you to fly in your new leadership role!

However, my combined experience as a retired Executive Headhunter and long-term Executive Mentor keeps showing me that the role of MD for a creative agency is also one of the most misunderstood and overlooked.

There are two key factors for this:

  • An internal promotion does not get the right introduction or “recasting” into the new senior position to be differentiated from previous peers
  • A newly hired senior person is not given the full picture of what the role really entails, the watch-outs, nor the expected milestones that will define “success”

Whether internally promoted or headhunted into the role, here are the top 5 reasons why most new MD appointments struggle and, at worst case, fail altogether:

  1. Lack of clarity and confirmation by what the role of Managing Director actually means for this specific hire at this time of the company’s growth
  2. Lack of strategic thinking on how to onboard the new MD into the position and the milestones for success from 1 month to 18 months
  3. Conflict internally about what the role and remit of the MD position is and how it works as part of the leadership team
  4. Lack of budget to fully empower the new MD to act on the changes they wish to bring about, in line with their understanding of what the business hired them to do as MD
  5. Assumption that because a leader is “senior” and paid a good salary, they come with all the answers and don’t need support or mentoring to thrive quickly in the new role.

To avoid these common pitfalls, here are my quick wins for newly appointed Managing Directors:

Ensure you have a clear, informative and accurate Job Description with clear milestones and timeframes so people aren’t assuming what “success” needs to look like from your hire.

Get clear on what you need to learn, adapt, or change to fully succeed in your new role. Break it down into the top 5 priorities and anchor your needs with WHAT you need to know and why, WHO will teach you and how, WHEN this must be done by, and the desired IMPACT of what the learning will achieve.

Get clear about your own leadership style. What do you need to STOP, START, DO MORE OF and DO LESS OF to successfully adapt to your new role? Write this down and keep a score card of how easy or hard you find it to change old habits.

Get a Mentor! Whether officially, unofficially, inside the business or external, having a dedicated person who is objective and able to support your change and growth will fast-track results and help you to thrive in the role - and of course enjoy it - sooner!

Make your professional development time-bound. Yes, this is very obvious but the easiest thing to fall to the bottom of the pile when you are in a new leadership role is your development, or what can be sometimes seen as the “nice-to-have”. 

The cost to an agency & the new MD when things go wrong can be devastating, and it is a situation I have seen happening too many times throughout my different careers.

The benefit of investing in the right support, advice & approach works out at a fraction of the risk or head-hunting fee, and more than pays dividends in results both commercially & culturally.

It is my passion for 2018 and beyond that more creative business, and those in the role of Managing Director, benefit from investing in professional growth and supported leadership development.

I’d love to hear from you if you share this view!


P.S: When you are ready, here are additional ways I can help you:

• Sign up to my free bi-weekly newsletter here - packed with ideas, inspiration and practical tips to boost leadership and performance!
• Benefit from my FREE eBooks on making Successful Change at Work, Being a Brilliant MD and Finding your Professional Values
• Inject fresh insight and targeted priorities into your leadership development through my FREE #BrilliantLeader Audits and #BrilliantMD Audit -click here to BOOK NOW!
• Book me for a Motivational Talk or Specialist Leadership Development Workshop here.
• Access the fast-track growth that is available through my signature proven Results-Based Executive Mentoring Programmes, Shine Brighter and Beam, for teams and individuals here.

sally henderson