Note: George Bradt has a unique perspective on helping leaders accelerate transitions based on his combined senior line management and consulting experience. He has worked in sales, marketing and general management at Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola—around the world. He founded the executive onboarding and transition acceleration group PrimeGenesis.
Let's look at one situation. Betty joined a large computer manufacturer in a senior sales leadership role. Since she was working from home, she called her new boss, Dave, at 9 am on her first day to find out what she should do. Dave didn't return her call until 10:45 and then gave Betty the names of three people she could contact to start learning about the business. No phone numbers. No contact info of any sort. Just names. And two weeks into her job, that was the last conversation Betty had had with Dave. She had spent most of those first two weeks trying to get a computer, password, network connectivity and the like—and she still had not been granted access to the local sales office. Almost unbelievable. But true.
Who's to blame? Everyone. Shame on the company for not having a cohesive onboarding process. (Hard to imagine that a computer manufacturer can't figure out how to get its new sales leader a computer before day one.) Shame on Dave for not taking his new employee's onboarding seriously. Shame on Betty for not taking charge of her own onboarding. Onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new team members. In this case, everyone missed each of the last three steps and Betty is well on the way to joining the 40% of new leaders that fail in their first 18 months.
Onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new team members.
Acquire: Identify, recruit, select and get people to join the team.
Accommodate: Give new team members the tools they need to do work.
Assimilate: Help them join with others so they can do work together.
Accelerate: Help them (and their team) deliver better results faster.
As you're joining a new team yourself or bringing someone onboard your team, keep three things in mind: 1) Get a head start, 2) Manage the message, 3) Help others deliver results.
Get a head start
From the perspective of the hiring manager, new employee onboarding starts with getting key stakeholders aligned around the role and interdependencies before starting any recruiting—mitigating the role risk. Then, right after the offer is accepted, the best hiring managers co-create a personal onboarding plan with their new employees so they can get a head start on jump-starting relationships and learning even before day one.
Manage the message
Knowing that everything communicates, forward looking hiring managers understand that all interactions with candidates model behaviors and approaches they want candidates to take when they become employees. For their part, the best leaders carefully manage everything they do and don't do, say and don't say to make sure they are communicating what they want to communicate and not communicating what they don't want.
Help others deliver
After day one, the only thing new employees can do all by themselves is fail. Delivering any result in any organization requires them to work with and through others. Thus, the most successful new leaders invest heavily in converging into the new culture and then accelerating progress as a team. And the most successful hiring managers help new employees and their teams deliver by providing resources and support as needed behind the scenes.
Thus, getting a head start, managing the message, and helping others deliver is a good framework for improving success for both hiring managers and new employees.
George is the author of The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 2006 and 2009), Onboarding (Wiley, 2009), and The Total Onboarding Program (Wiley/Pfeiffer, 2010). Additional information can be found on his website: www.primegenesis.com.