Seven Essential Steps for New Executives to Thrive
New executives hired from the outside typically want to align their leadership team quickly so critical goals can be achieved as soon as possible. Afterall, they’ve been hired by the Board of Directors or senior executives to introduce fresh thinking and positive change.
Unfortunately, the rush to make changes often backfires. Making changes without understanding your leadership team’s capabilities, key stakeholder perspectives and company culture is a contributing factor to the failure rate of 40 to 50 percent of all executives in the first 18 months on the job.
Taking a more measured approach to implementing changes benefits new executives. Setting a ninety-day plan allows for a more informed, inclusive process to understand your new reality while setting your organization and yourself up for success.
As an executive coach and former HR vice president, I’ve worked with scores of leaders hired from the outside to bring positive change to organizations. Among them, the most successful new executive hires follow these seven essential steps to thrive in their new position:
1) Start slow, then act with confidence: From day one in a new role, your team and others will want to know your vision, why it will be effective and what it means for them. Be forthright and communicate that you will need a minimum of 90 days to make an initial informed assessment, solicit key stakeholder buy-in and gain management approval of your vision. This process includes learning more about your staff members as individuals; identifying individual and team strengths and opportunities; seeking insight from and understanding of the priorities of your staff and key stakeholders. Don’t forget to add that you will be needing their guidance as you strive to navigate to learn a new organizational culture!
2) Enlist coaching to accelerate leadership: Using an executive coach in a new leader assimilation and during the on-boarding process is a sign of maturity and leadership. You were hired with the expectation of success. Executive coaches have skills in helping leaders succeed in new enterprises; organizations support enlisting their expertise. More often today, they are assigning coaches to partner with key leaders to ensure the investment cost of hiring a new executive has the best probability of success. Using a skilled executive coach early in the critical new hire phase leads to more inclusive processes and provides you with additional perspectives and best practices to consider.
3) Learn about your staff: Set up a meeting cadence of one-on-one and team staff meetings. Schedule your new leader assimilation in the first months and communicate the date promptly with your staff. Continue to learn more about your staff members: What motivates them? What are they most proud of? Be curious about their career goals and ask how you can help them reach their full potential.
4) Meet and learn from stakeholders: Set up initial and then periodic meetings with key stakeholders to learn more about their organizations, interdependencies with your team, and what they view as strengths and opportunities for the team and organization you lead. Listen objectively and take notes. Stakeholders appreciate being asked for their insights. Get their take on how your enterprise is positioned compared to leading industry competitors, adding to what you’ve been learning about industry positioning. Commit that once you’ve developed your future vision and obtained your manager’s approval, you’ll share the changes you plan to implement.
5) Seek to understand: You’ll be asking a lot of questions in the steps above. Along the way, communicate that you are seeking to understand, not to judge. Express your gratitude as well as your desire to learn more of the culture and history of your new organization.
6) Develop your vision: After gathering all this knowledge, you’re ready to formulate an informed vision for success.
Your vision may include changes within your organization— both people and structural —based on your assessment of team member capabilities, individual career discussions, required skillsets and competencies needed for forward success, stakeholder feedback and industry trends. Prepare current and proposed organizational charts to present to your manager for input and perspective. Be prepared to make changes based on feedback from your manager.
7) Implement changes: Once approved, you are ready to implement your initial plans with greater opportunity for success. Your manager also will know you’ve done the homework necessary and that you were willing to listen and make suggested changes.
Taking these seven essential steps will give you confidence to move forward and lead authentically. Your staff and other stakeholders also will appreciate that you are striving to learn their culture and bring about positive change designed to work in your competitive industry.
How can executive coaching help your organization with on-boarding executives in such a way that their leadership accelerates and the hiring investment delivers a high return?
Lance Hazzard, PCC, CPCC, is an Executive Team Coach and a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations achieve success. Lance and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., co-authored Accelerating Leadership, published in June 2019. Lance is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. More information on the book, Lance and Oppnå® Coaching can be found at the links below: