We don't often get a second chance to make a first impression.
Transitions to a new role or organisation are opportunities and are essential for continued leadership development. However, executives' success in their careers to date does not prepare them to operate as successfully in a different culture and way of doing things.
The reality is that outside hires often fail to integrate into new organisations because they are not familiar with the culture or way of doing things and lack a support network.
Hope and fail or fail to plan... Common pitfalls when moving to a new organisation
Unfortunately, more often than not, the failure to transition is the direct result of insufficient onboarding processes at the hiring organisations that fail to integrate newly appointed leaders effectively - here's why.
When an executive begins a new leadership role, it's a critical juncture in both the life of the executive and the business. Until this moment, there will likely have been a considerable amount of energy and attention given to finding a new role, with due diligence performed to find a good fit. Similar for the hiring organisation and their investment in the selection of that executive. Yet, most employers will fall short in the critical effort to adequately integrate and prepare the executive to succeed in their new role. Most organisations - even those that set the bar pretty low - believe they are integrating executives effectively. However, the research shows that what they actually did to accelerate the integration of executives into their roles varied dramatically, from extensive to essentially none.
However, this sink-or-swim process is leaving too much to chance.
The first mistake I see time and again is organisational procrastination getting in the way of doing the right thing - so adequate support is not put in place. The transition is a powerful and infrequent opportunity for executives to take control and reap the benefits of proactively managing the process - therefore, take charge!
Another mistake I see, this time with the executives I coach, is that they seek help to transition and integrate successfully, but only after they are already in the role. So several weeks, perhaps months, will pass before we first start working together.
With this in mind, there are crucial tasks all executives can do, whether they are moving roles or hiring someone new into their team, to get ahead of the curve and increase the chances of success.
Begin before you begin
The best way to recover from a false start is to avoid one in the first place. Your work to successfully transition begins before you walk in the door for the first time. Here are six things you can and should do before you officially start in the new role:
1 - Mandate, success factors, accountability
Write down your new mandate, what you are accountable for and how you will be measured and hence what success will look and feel like. The fast-paced, rapidly evolving business environment means clarity and clear communication is more critical now than ever before. Discuss your understanding with your new boss before starting. Things inevitably change between the first interview and starting the job. Refine and iterate to ensure there are clear expectations or as clear as reasonably possible. A clearer picture will help you establish boundaries and stay focused, which can be difficult when "drinking from the fire hydrant" that a new job typically entails.
2 - Priorities
It sounds simple, but what is your top priority when you walk in the door? No doubt you will have many important things to do and achieve on your plate. Seek clarity around the most important, the top 20%, as this is where you need to initially focus your scarce time and attention and look for wins to establish credibility quickly.
3 - Why?
You will be meeting many people when you first start your new role, especially if it is with a new organisation. So why have you taken the role and joined the team? What are you excited about doing together? Having a considered, concise and memorable "elevator pitch" that you consistently share with every one new you meet will not only make your life easier but help kick start any changes that you intend to make in your new role. Write this down and memorise it before starting the new job.
4 - New boss
It is paramount that you form a strong relationship with your new boss. What are their expectations? How do they like to work, what is their preferred method for communicating? Bonding and building trust with your new boss is crucial so start doing so before you walk in the door for the first time.
5 - New team
Aim to informally get to know your new team before you start. Meet 1-2-1 for a coffee or lunch, answer their questions about you, share your why from #3 and find out about them - show a genuine interest. The new dynamic created when moving job is when clear communication is of paramount importance, yet often when it is most commonly lacking, and assumptions abound. Let's remove some of the guesswork, which will aid with establishing trust with your new team. You'll see direct bottom-line benefits as the time to get up to speed is reduced, along with fewer opportunities for conflict and misunderstandings to arise.
6 - Pre-mortem
Use the benefits from the power of prospective hindsight to offer some answers. By imagining failure in advance and thinking through what might cause a false start, you can anticipate some of the potential problems and reduce the risk of them happening or avoid them entirely.
Assume it's 12-18 months from now and your new job is a disaster. What went wrong?
Picture this happening in as much detail as possible - try to make it as realistic as possible.
Now write down every reason you can think of for the failure.
Next, work through your list and identify what steps you will take to mitigate the risks this exercise highlighted.
"It isn't the changes that will do you in; it's the transitions. Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. When a change happens without people going through a transition, it is just a rearrangement of the chairs."
- William Bridges
Although the benefits of sufficient transition and integration support are clearly evident, such assistance is all too rare for many newly appointed executives. For whatever reason, hiring organisations focus too much on securing the perfect leaders for their open roles that they neglect the necessity to help them with their transition or don't put aside the required resources to invest in the support.
Take control and reap the rewards of getting up to operational speed faster and accelerating your impact in the new role and organisation. Get in touch to explore how Transition coaching can help you.
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