Leaders who are new to a leadership role, new to the company, or recently promoted to a role of greater scope or complexity face significant challenges. Research shows that roughly 50% of newly hired executives quit or are fired within their first three years, and up to 40% of executives who change jobs or are promoted fail during their first 18 months.
To help ensure a greater probability of new leader success, the typical executive selection process places a premium on the demonstrated ability to get things done and the projected ability to make an immediate impact. While these are clearly positive attributes, an overreliance on an executive’s perceived natural ability to succeed often overshadows the reality that organizations are complex systems. Effective acclimation takes focus and deliberate attention.
One of the most important yet most often overlooked components of effective onboarding is the need to quickly gain focus and alignment with three important constituent groups – your boss, direct reports, and key stakeholders.
Engaging in critical conversations with each of these important constituents will help accelerate the acclimation process by providing insight into the culture, expectations of the role, and team dynamics. These conversations provide an efficient and effective mechanism for gaining insight into the unique and important nuances of situations and relationships. In addition, the exchange provides a foundation for clarifying and aligning your needs and expectations with the needs and expectations of your boss, your team, and your key stakeholders.
When assuming a new role or joining a new team, it is important to create a solid foundation for success by clarifying expectations with your new boss. Essential areas of exploration and discussion include explicit and implicit expectations as well as communication preferences.
In addition, these early conversations provide insight into cultural norms and organizational context that provide clarity into not only what needs to get done but also how things get accomplished in this environment. Important components of the critical conversation to ensure alignment with your boss include:
Discuss mutual expectations
As a leader, most of what you accomplish will get done with, and through, other people. Gaining an understanding of the perspectives, ideas, and concerns of your new direct reports provides insight into the current state of the team and may highlight potential opportunities for increasing individual and team effectiveness. Important components of the conversation with direct reports include:
Understanding the Individual:
Understanding the Roles:
Organizations are complex systems. Roles, resources, and workflow from one group or function are often connected and reliant on the work product of other groups or functions. Work flow is also often interconnected in informal (or less obvious) but no less important ways with other key stakeholders. Your ability to achieve success is enhanced by increasing your awareness and focus on collaborating and leveraging this network of resources, stakeholders, and influencers.
Draw a stakeholder map of key teams, functions, and people that you will interface with, both within the organization and externally, so you can establish a sense of how your role and your team fits within the broader system. With input from your boss (and others), define a strategy, priority, and timing for outreach and conversation with each stakeholder contact. Determine who you need to connect with in the first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days.
For each stakeholder, identify a strategy to get acquainted, begin building relationships, and understand:
Taking the time to fully engage your boss, your team, and your key stakeholders in these critical conversations will help you better navigate the organization and identify the broader context and expectations of the new role or new responsibilities. Focusing on immersion and understanding before jumping into implementation and execution increases the opportunity to identify and deliver “early wins” that help both you and the organization see success in the critical first months and beyond.