The Right Way To Onboard A New (And Big) Executive

September 29th, 2016 / Comments Off on The Right Way To Onboard A New (And Big) Executive

It always seems like finding a new executive to join your team is the hard part, but the truth is, successfully integrating them and getting the desired outcome is the real challenge.

If you’re a first time CEO or manager and you’re several years younger than this new professional on your team, you may think, “I hired this person and they are the expert—they’ll know what to do.” Please, please, resist this temptation. I’ve known many leaders who’ve practiced this management approach and I’ve yet to see it yield great results.

Your job as a manager is to be inspiring, fair, honest and to hold people accountable to do their best. If you do that, you will not go wrong. Do not become intimidated by years of experience or someone’s reputation or bravado. You are the leader and while they may be the domain expert, you need to ensure that they (and your company) are successful.

That requires active discussion and engagement on all fronts. A winning recruiting and onboarding strategy entails a lot of initial dialog for alignment around:

• What does success look like?

• What is expected of the new executive?

• What authority level does the new executive have (what authority do they have to hire? What input should they get before they fire anyone?)

• What are the expected behaviors/what is the appropriate style for the culture?

• What do the first 90 days look like?

• What problems will they want to tackle right away? What should be put on hold?

• What is the cadence for check-ins? How often will you be meeting?

I’m a fan of codifying the above in a document so that there’s something to go back to and check against. People interpret goals and expectations differently, so this is an especially important exercise. I ask the new executive to take the lead and document what we discussed and then I will edit it. We will both frequently check back on the document to see how things are progressing. I recommend having weekly 1:1s to check-in on how things are going. These meetings also offer an opportunity to provide advice and to solicit input on how you can help them become more successful.

A couple of other points for you to keep in mind:

• You hired this person for a reason. You, therefore know that something needs to be done differently, so expect that there will be some changes. You just need to be aligned on what they are.

• There’s a lot to be discussed and imparted, but don’t forget that listening goes a long way. Any new executive should be reminded of the importance of listening to the team. I recommend they solicit input about what is going well and where improvement is necessary.

• There’s likely to be quite a bit of change and the current team needs to be forewarned and accepting of this. If (likely when) people come to you to complain about the changes, you need to listen, but also route them back to having the transparent discussion with the new hire.

• If something is bothering you in your gut, you are not doing anybody any favors by not letting them know. Of course, please do this in a way that’s constructive and truth-seeking as opposed to one that is blaming.

Remember the reason you hired someone is that you needed a change. Now set the conditions up to implement that and make them wildly successful. This takes active management. After that, it takes more work. Never expect things to magically get better. The better you onboard and acclimate someone, the faster they will deliver impact, and you will all earn the results you are striving to achieve.

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