By the time an executive takes on a new assignment the hiring organization has already born significant costs; the candidate’s search, selection, hiring and possible relocation represent a considerable investment that will not be recouped if the executive fails.
Much is expected from the new leader to justify such expenses. After the brief so-called honeymoon period of generally 3 months, the pressure is on for the new executive to perform.
While tremendous support has usually been provided by the organization up then, once the executive is finally in place, little further support is available.
Two operating mindsets reinforce this. From the company’s viewpoint, they hired a senior person they expect to be able to handle things going forward. For the new executive, there is a strong desire to prove oneself and make their mark as soon as possible.
This sink-or-swim approach is a common mistake at this early phase where the future success of the new assignment will be actually determined. The very first weeks are indeed critical.
Executives typically have some mandate from above to make changes, especially if problems arose under the leadership of the previous executive. As a result we often see leaders promptly alienating themselves from their new groups as they rush into action and greatly jeopardize their own future effectiveness.
Without sufficient attention to bringing the existing staff into the fold, it is easy for new executives to offend people unknowingly and trigger resistance by not understanding or respecting the existing culture. The risk is high that leaders will surround themselves with less resistant personnel and deprive themselves of the knowledge of more talented but less compliant people. Understanding resistance is an opportunity for leaders to gain insight.
Leaving the new executives to find their bearings on their own is a high-cost inefficient approach. Much can be accomplished in the first weeks to give to the new executive a deep insight in the reality of the organization and the prevalent culture. Adding a marginal investment in onboarding can ensure the success of the new assignment.
Executive Onboarding Outcomes
Our unique approach to Executive Onboarding is to facilitate a retreat of 2 to 3 days with the participation of the executive and the key reporting managers. This process allows new executives to accelerate settling into their new functions. Leader and team members:
- Get a sense of the reality of the organization as a whole system,
- Explore and acknowledge the general mindset of the individuals on the team,
- Have a complete discussion about what people in place think of what is working and what is not,
- Open the discussion to explore opportunities for improvements.
- Provide the opportunity for everyone to get a sense of their new leader’s style, priorities, and personal qualities.
- Give an opportunity to the leader to ask open questions in a non-threatening way because he or she is still in the phase of discovery.
- Use the honeymoon period for employees to discover their leader before changes begin.
Our approach is time efficient. In the matter of days, the new executive will gain a detailed understanding of the issues and a greater insight into individuals and culture.
Transitions of leadership can cause employee morale to drop because of the general perceived uncertainty. In reverse, people feel more included and therefore less anxious when they can have an early look at how their future will unfold.
Our process of joint discovery and alignment relieves stress that both depresses productivity and makes people less open to changes. Coming out of our onboarding sessions, staff feels more engaged and interested in supporting the leader.
This approach to onboarding has a direct positive impact on how leader and staff coordinate action and assess performance. The aligned leader and staff can rapidly agree on objectives and the metrics to measure progress.
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