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In addition to expanding what is provided to new leaders, we also recommend expanding the length of time for new leader onboarding and assimilation programs. Instead of the first week or even the first days, we encourage clients to put time and attention on the process for 6 to 12 months, with intensity waning in the back half of that time period. Finally, think about ways you can customize or personalize the onboarding experience. No matter how complicated the transition is, a facilitated process that covers the orientation basics AND give the leader resources to assimilate with the team will set the stage and increase the chances of early team success.

You can download it here. Krista Skidmore , Esq. She leads the FlashPoint consulting team to ensure they deliver results to clients with intelligence and integrity. New leaders also need to gain the support of people over whom they have no direct authority, including their bosses, their peers, and other colleagues. That means learning how decision making works in the organization, who has influence over it, and where the centers of power reside.

The executive must also walk a fine line between working within the culture and seeking to change it. Finally, the new leader must start to shape strategy.

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Sometimes executives are hired for their expertise in a particular approach; other times they are chosen for their ability to develop and implement an entirely new strategy. If a new strategy is required, corresponding elements of the organization—its structure and its talent management and performance measurement processes—must be transformed to execute it. Either way, the new leader must be clear about the path ahead.

Together these five transition tasks present a daunting challenge. Stumbles in any area can lead to serious problems or even outright derailment. That way they can prioritize their time effectively. Support comes in four levels:. Companies at this level—we call it level 0—do little more than provide a new executive with space and basic resources such as technology and assistants. This is level 1 in our model. It involves sharing information about company policies, team member evaluations, organizational structure, strategy, and business results. Essentially, the company provides raw data, and the new leader studies and interprets it independently.

If the executive is given anything more qualitative, there is no support to ensure that its significance is well understood. Our research shows that about two-thirds of all global companies still take this approach. Here, at level 2, the company organizes meetings with key stakeholders to accelerate a transfer of deeper knowledge about the business, the team, the culture, and strategic priorities. And without prior briefing, the executive may neglect organizationally sensitive issues that he or she should address. At level 3—the ideal—the company orchestrates custom-designed experiences that enable a new leader to integrate more fully and rapidly.

These might include team-building workshops and deep-dive discussions about strategy. The organization helps the new executive identify specific cultural challenges to be overcome, as the global communications company does with its questionnaire about previous ways of working. We find that in practice, support tends to vary from one transition task to another. For example, a company might organize meetings level 2 to help a new executive assume operational leadership and align with stakeholders, but provide only basic information to support taking charge of the team level 1 and do virtually nothing level 0 to help the executive engage with the culture or define strategic intent.

A thorough assessment reveals strengths and weaknesses across the five major tasks.

The New Leader's First Team Meeting

This tool will help you evaluate your organization on its commitment to basic orientation signing up new hires and explaining roles and organizational structure , active assimilation making modest efforts to help people understand organizational culture and politics , and accelerated integration investing resources in bringing people up to speed quickly. Consider this example:. Over the past seven years a consumer goods company that operates across Europe, Asia, and Africa has deliberately intensified its integration efforts, in the process moving from level 1 to level 2 or 3 in most areas.

For many years before the financial downturn, senior management had defined and nurtured a culture that prioritized internal talent development. Consequently, most executives who became general managers had built their careers at the company. The baseline had been to acclimate newly appointed executives by sharing information about the local businesses and identifying key stakeholders—including team members—so that leaders could schedule meetings in the early days level 1. But after the crisis hit, senior management embraced a new operating model that entailed a much more matrixed organization.

Recognizing the need for new capabilities to run it effectively, the company redesigned its talent programs.

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At the same time, the CEO and the executive team decided they had to quickly make a number of strategic external hires to bring in general managers with the requisite skills. It soon became clear how difficult it was for outsiders to instantly grasp when they were empowered to make decisions locally and when it was important to reach consensus with the head office.

So the company began to provide coaching on decision making and stakeholder management and asked line managers to play an active role in this effort. These things involve little or no time investment from senior management and do nothing to help leaders clear the biggest hurdles they will face in their new roles: cultural and political challenges.

Consider, in contrast, those companies that devote substantial resources to helping new executives become fully integrated. For example, at a major global communications and digital services company that develops general managers through frequent country rotations, all new subsidiary leaders are strongly encouraged to go through a structured integration program.


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What their previous colleagues might have seen as thoughtful consultation with key stakeholders may be perceived in the new setting as slow decision making or a lack of conviction and initiative. Of course, differences in regional culture, too, are significant for executives transferring to other countries. Systematically examining such differences and their possible impact has greatly reduced derailment risks and decreased the amount of time it takes leaders to become effective in their new environments.

Stakeholders are listed and discussed—who should be prioritized for early meetings, how certain individuals should be approached, and so on. Executives are encouraged to prepare an elevator speech before starting in their new roles, summing up why they are joining and what they hope to contribute to the company. New leaders say that this exercise gives them a powerful way to crystallize their key messages, which they can begin sharing the moment they walk through the door; the company has found that this enables them to communicate their intentions more clearly to their teams and peers in their first weeks on the job.

Focused integration efforts in this organization have helped executives avoid common pitfalls and accomplish more early on, and the individual gains have created a significant collective benefit. In our research and decades of experience working with executives, we have identified five major tasks that leaders must undertake in their first few critical months.

Recommended Books | Leader OnBoarding

These are the areas in which they need the greatest integration support:. Even with the best possible exchange of information during the recruiting process, any leader in a new role especially an outsider will have an incomplete picture of the business—its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A new leader builds his or her credibility by demonstrating awareness of important operational issues, swiftly solving urgent problems, and identifying and achieving quick wins.

Good early decisions on the ground have a material impact on his or her reputation as an effective leader. New leaders have to signal that building relationships is a priority for them. However, this window closes soon, and focus and discipline are needed to efficiently gather information for smart decisions. Striking the right balance requires careful planning and coordination with HR and, typically, one or more facilitated sessions between the executive and the team during the first few weeks.

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The goal is to create a safe environment for both to give timely, constructive feedback and to ask what may seem like awkward questions when relationships are just beginning to form. Building trust early with the team enables the new leader to make key decisions with confidence that people will follow through on them. New leaders also need to gain the support of people over whom they have no direct authority, including their bosses, their peers, and other colleagues. That means learning how decision making works in the organization, who has influence over it, and where the centers of power reside.

The executive must also walk a fine line between working within the culture and seeking to change it.

Assimilating New Leaders: The Key To Executive Retention

Finally, the new leader must start to shape strategy. Sometimes executives are hired for their expertise in a particular approach; other times they are chosen for their ability to develop and implement an entirely new strategy. If a new strategy is required, corresponding elements of the organization—its structure and its talent management and performance measurement processes—must be transformed to execute it.

Either way, the new leader must be clear about the path ahead. Together these five transition tasks present a daunting challenge. Stumbles in any area can lead to serious problems or even outright derailment.


  • Executive On-Boarding & Integration.
  • Recommended Books.
  • The Five Tasks.
  • That way they can prioritize their time effectively. Support comes in four levels:. Companies at this level—we call it level 0—do little more than provide a new executive with space and basic resources such as technology and assistants. This is level 1 in our model. It involves sharing information about company policies, team member evaluations, organizational structure, strategy, and business results. Essentially, the company provides raw data, and the new leader studies and interprets it independently.

    If the executive is given anything more qualitative, there is no support to ensure that its significance is well understood.