Well intended executives can easily get off track in their first few months in a new role, only to find they are disenfranchised or even soon out of a job. Unfortunately many executives either don’t create a leader transition plan or desert their executive onboarding plans and jump from the learning and planning phase to the doing phase too soon. Here are some indicators that your onboarding may be off track and some suggestions to get things back on track.
- Step out of learning mode too soon before really understanding the business. Transitions are a unique opportunity to learn, inquire, dig deep and determine how you can contribute. Use every meeting and interaction as an exploration. Absorb and take in all the information to enable more informed decisions.
- Failure to build trust and solid relationships. An executive’s role is isolating enough so don’t make it any harder to connect and collaborate with others by making the mistake of focusing solely on the business. People will want to know who you are and can they trust you. Make getting to know people your first priority. Go broad and deep into the organization versus hanging out in the executive tower. Engage people in a dialogue about who they are and what excites them. Look at everyone as the CEO of their position; each making a unique and valuable contribution.
- Misunderstand how things get done in the organization. Let’s remember, the organization has been around well before you arrived. Seek first to understand the culture and how work gets done. Explore all sides of an issue and listen to what people have to say. Making changes too quickly can be a recipe for disaster.
- Think it is ok to move in a different direction from the boss. How effective can you really be if you haven’t forged a relationship with your boss? It is one thing to have healthy conversations, it is a possible career ender to decide your boss isn’t worth a hill of beans. Work with your boss to get aligned on the big issues and develop a common set of priorities, goals and metrics.
- Focus too much on the technical aspects of the role and not enough on the social and political aspects. When you have built solid working relationships and understand where people are coming from, you are in a better position to collaborate and solve problems. Be sensitive of your language and comments as not to alienate others.
- Saying one thing and doing another. So you can make the fancy, inspiring speech; but when no one is looking, are you walking your talk? Be authentic. Follow through on your commitments. Get clear on your personal brand, your values and your leadership approach. It is one thing to speak in platitudes and another to actually walk the talk.
- Overdependence on what worked in the past. Avoid the trap of assuming you know what to do, in a new assignment which could cause you to stumble early in the transition. It’s terrific to rely on a set of core leadership competencies; however, make sure you understand the needs of the business so you build the appropriate skills and don’t over rely on your leadership strengths.
- Failure to hone the leadership skills required in the new assignment. Many leaders take the philosophy, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” only to find they don’t have the right skill set to excel in a role. Take the time to identify the leadership skills required in this new role. Understand your personal strengths and vulnerabilities and be willing to learn new skills. Additionally, surround your self with people who compliment your skills.
- Talking too much about your previous company. The last thing people want to hear is how great your previous company was and how perfectly they did everything. After a while, people may wonder, why didn’t you just stay there?
- Acting without a clear plan. It can be tempting to jump in and start doing without taking the time to strategize, plan and deploy. Transitions are tough enough, why operate in the dark? What is written down can get monitored, assessed and measured. A transition plan provides a strategy and a structure to capture and sequence the critical actions. As the situation unfolds, the plans can be modified while keeping an eye on what’s important.
Make the most of your time as you assimilate into a new role. Find ways to navigate around the pitfalls. Do your homework by gathering information, learning about the business, and connecting with a broad variety of associates and customers. Once you have collected all the data, assess what it all means, capture and share your observations and begin to charter the way forward.