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Ultimate Executive Onboarding Planner

Ultimate Executive Onboarding Planner

7 Ingredients to Start Your New Role Strong

As you enter a new role, your expectations and those who hired you are high. Are you adequately prepared to lead yourself and others through this change?

Over 67% of leaders when polled by Carruci and Hansen (Rise to Power) said “they lacked sufficient understanding of what was required and were unprepared for what they faced, which explains why 50 percent of leaders fail within the first eighteen months.”

All too often leaders feeling the pressure to contribute, look for the easiest and fastest path to enter a new assignment which sometimes means abandoning the transition period. While it may be tempting to jump right in, over time, the lack of a transition plan is a disservice and a risk to you and your company.

Extraordinary leaders know their role is to serve the people and the business. These leaders take the necessary actions to ensure they are fully equipped to support the business. It starts with what they do and say within the first 90-100 days in the new role.

Over the years I’ve noticed consistent themes in successful transitions and learned to be wary of the common missteps leaders fall into as they short circuit the entry into the role.

In this article, I will share seven key transition ingredients to get your transition into a new role headed in the right direction.


1) Establish Your Transition Goals and Strategy

It starts with assessing and understanding the business situation and getting ready to handle the challenges that lie ahead. Before moving forward use the following questions to identify your transition goals and strategy.

  1. How much do you know about the business? What are the pre-conceived notions you have about the business, organization, culture, process, or people?
  2. What are your transition goals? Name 3-5 specific goals you want to accomplish as you enter this new role.
  3. What is your strategy to get-up-to-speed over the next 90-100 days?
  4. What are your leadership strengths and vulnerabilities? What leadership skills are necessary to effectively perform in this new role?
  5. Who are the key people you need to get to know? What is your plan to make these connections?
  6. What will colleagues be saying about you after 3 months? How will you know you successfully transitioned into the organization?

Refer to your strategy and goals throughout your transition and make adjustments as you uncover more information.

2) Enhance Your Leadership

Know Yourself

Entering a new role isn’t the time to get complacent or assume your current approach will fit the new position. As roles change, so should your leadership behaviors. A job transition is a good time to assess your leadership and make the necessary enhancements.

Use tools such as a Personal SWOT Analysis to assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as potential threats and opportunities for growth.

  1. Which skills and characteristics do you consider to be your strengths?
  2. What are your vulnerabilities or tasks you usually avoid?
  3. What trends do you see and how can you take advantage of them in this new role?
  4. What obstacles do you face and how might the changing work environment intimidate you? Could any of your strengths or weaknesses lead to potential threats?

Your words and actions can have a significant impact on what others say and do. Every step into more senior roles requires new leadership actions and approaches. Often leaders get stuck working in the same old ways only to find that the approach is no longer effective.

Critically examine your new role, the business situation and the necessary skills needed to be successful. Ask yourself:

  • What leadership behaviors do I need to start doing?
  • What behaviors or actions no longer serve me in this new role?
  • What should I continue doing as I move into this new role?

Communicate Your Personal Brand

When colleagues are clear about what you bring to the role, it’s easier to work with you. Knowing what you want to say ahead of time also allows for more meaningful conversations. Keep your messages short and simple and stick to relevant aspects to build credibility and respect.

Personal Branding statements can help you talk about yourself. Sharing your background doesn’t mean recounting your whole life. Yes, I have heard seasoned executives go on and on regaling their life stories leaving little time for anything else.

Develop and articulate your personal brand using the following:

Value Proposition – Describe your personal brand and the special value you bring to the business. What can you say about yourself in two to four short inspiring sentences that differentiates your unique talents?

Professional and Personal Background – People will be curious about who you are and why you were chosen for the role. Your background gives people some context and acts as a good conversation starter. Again, it’s not your life story, just the nuggets that help people get to know you. Be sure to include stories about what you like to do when you aren’t at work.

Leadership Values – One of the best ways to present your leadership approach is through sharing examples and stories about what you value. Then back up your conversations by walking your talk. Choose three to five core values that demonstrate your approach to leadership.

Mutual Expectations – During your initial discussions set mutual expectations for how you will work with others. Focus on mutual expectations for the first 90-100 days and re-adjust at the end of the transition period.

Share Your Message –  Finally pull together the relevant stories and messages you will want to share with others to start to build the foundation of where you will lead the area.

3) Create a Learning Environment

“The capacity to learn is a gift. The ability to learn is a skill. The willingness to learn is a choice.” Brian Herbert

The first 90-100 days gives you the unique opportunity to fully review the business, culture, people and customers, which is something you may not have the luxury or time to do later. Before jumping to conclusions, listen to all sides of a topic.

Go broad and deep in reviewing all aspects of the business, even the areas that aren’t of particular interest to you. These areas when missed can cause challenges down the road. In the early days of a new role you have permission to get into the details, ask the stupid questions and really explore how the business operates.

Each area of the business may have a slightly different perspective of how things should work. So go beyond your own area and look cross-organizationally to pick up information about how the business operates.

I advise clients to talk less and observe more. It’s easy to get caught up on the technical aspects and fail to see the emotional and social aspects of how work gets done. The “softer” aspects of the business can actually be the harder areas to navigate especially when leading changes in the future.

Prepare a list of the areas and topics you wish to learn more about as well as the individuals and groups who can help you with this learning. Create questions to prepare for the many discussions. Compile your notes and documents as you go along so you can assess the business.

4) Incorporate Healthy Practices

Times of transition can be hectic and stressful as leaders move out of their comfort zones. Stepping into a new role and plowing through really isn’t a smart option. The new role requires stamina and energy to get up-to-speed.

Below are ten Daily Healthy Practices to keep you are physically, mentally and emotionally ready to make the most of the opportunity you have been given.

  1. Exercise at least 20-30 minutes a day
  2. Get up early and plan your day
  3. Eat healthy foods
  4. Stay hydrated
  5. Sleep at least 7-9 hours per night
  6. Regain balance through deep breathing
  7. Show gratitude and provide positive feedback to others
  8. Find a few minutes of silence and quiet time through meditation and other mindfulness techniques
  9. Capture your thoughts and ideas in a journal
  10. Take regular breaks from electronic devices

5) Make First Impressions Count

Whether you know colleagues well or not at all, use the entry into this position to cultivate solid working relationships.

Too often I see leaders “wing” conversations and lose the opportunity for more in-depth discussions with colleagues.

For each conversation develop a conversation preparation plan just like you would for a customer meeting. Better conversations aid to quickly build credibility, trust and respect which lead to better business decisions.

Do your homework using the following five steps to cultivate better relationships:

Know Your Audience – Do some research ahead of time on the people, their backgrounds and interests.

Identify Key Topics – Know what you wish to discuss ahead of time.

Prepare for Questions – Make good use of the brief face time with well thought-out questions and answers.

Assess Reactions – Get prepared to handle the interpersonal and emotional aspects of conversations. How will people react to what is going on around them? What can you do and say that would help them get focused and working productively?

Prompt Follow-up – A conversation is a terrific first step. What kind of follow up actions will help to advance the discussions?

6) Assimilate with the Organization

High performing teams are critical to an organization’s success.

As the new player on the team, get acquainted with how the team currently works before making changes. This knowledge allows you to know where, when, and how to make adjustments that can be owned by the entire team.

Use a Team Assimilation Work Session to facilitate a group conversation. Ask your HR Professional or an objective coach or facilitator to help you develop and deliver this session.

7) Communicate Strategically

Your new role signifies a change — staying in touch becomes a key element to focusing and engaging others. People will want to know where they stand, what is expected of them and what happens next.

Don’t leave your communication to chance. During times of change, people need more information, not less. Unfortunately, leaders can fall into the trap of not communicating enough thinking they don’t have anything definitive to say.

Communicating “nothing” is communicating something. When smart people lack communication they chart their own course, while others make up their own stories, which most of the time they are wrong. Without proper communication, people lack clarity and productivity suffers.

Create a Communication Plan to communicate with others, and don’t be shy to communicate the same message several times. It can take an organization time to hear and process the message. Consistent, well thought out communication keeps everyone moving in the same direction.

Get Started: Pre-Day One Checklist

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”    — Alexander Graham Bell

Get organized and started well before your first day in the new role. I suggest developing your Transition Playbook prior to day one. Below is a checklist of actions you can take to jump-start your transition and be ready for your first day on the job:

  • Complete the previous assignment — leave it better then you found it
  • Find out everything you can about the company and the business — begin capturing questions, and topics to review when you are in the role
  • Incorporate Healthy Practices into your daily routine
  • Start developing your Transition Playbook. This includes goal setting, calendar blocking, and mapping out your transition plans
  • Craft your Personal Branding Messages
  • Assess your leadership and determine how you will approach the new role
  • Seek advice and rally key resources that can support your entry
  • Map out your approach to learning and assessing the business
  • Develop a list of key stakeholders you will want to meet
  • Map out your Communication Strategy

I wish you the best in your new role and hope these practical ideas and tools help you with your transition.

For more information and ideas, please visit our website or pick up a copy of The Executive Transition Playbook: Strategies for Starting Strong, Staying Focused, and Succeeding in a New Leadership Role. In the book, I share a five step process to create and implement an Executive Transition Playbook that guides executives through the first 90-100 days.

If you found this article helpful, then be sure to leave a comment. And if you know of someone else who might like this, be sure to pass it on.

To your success!

Hilary Potts

About Hilary Potts

Hilary Potts, founder of The HAP Group, is a leadership strategist who advises some of the world’s most prominent organizations to create solutions that transform business results through leadership. She is the author of The Executive Transition Playbook: Strategies for Starting Strong, Staying Focused, and Succeeding in Your New Leadership Role.

Prior to founding The HAP Group, she served as CEO and President of Continuous Learning Group. She spent the first 15 years of her career at a Union Carbide, where she held a variety sales and business management positions.

Hilary is available for workshops, speaking engagements and one-on-one coaching. She works with organizations as well as individuals to achieve results through leadership.

To learn more about how to successfully transition into a new role and how Hilary works with clients, visit