Nearly every organization at some point during the year goes through the process of onboarding a new senior-level team member. Over the years, in our own businesses and in working with our clients, our team at Thinc has helped recruit and onboard dozens of executives. Admittedly, some have been more successful than others, but when a new leader thrives, it leads to better performance and growth.
Companies invest tens of thousands of dollars recruiting senior level hires and even more in compensation and benefits. It makes sense to do everything possible to maximize their impact and do it early. Here are a few tips that we’ve gleaned from working with clients and senior leaders in new roles.
Onboard From The Inside Out
In the book, “Aligning the Stars: How to Succeed When Professionals Drive the Results” authors Thomas Tierney and Jay Lorsch point out that to identify the superstars within your company, look at how they are regarded internally:
– Who is coveted for teams?
– Who is asked for advice?
– Who is sought out as a mentor or supervisor?
If you want your new hire to be a superstar for your company, start by setting them up for success internally.
Trust is key for internal success for senior leaders. Trust requires credibility and dependability. Initially, internal credibility can come from the new hire’s credentials, but they’ll quickly be judged on their actual performance compared to expectations.
You can help your new leader get off on the right foot by clearly communicating their role internally and sharing their initial priorities. This sets a foundation of expectations that they can work towards. Without clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, people in the company will set their own expectations, creating the potential for confusion or a perception that the new hire is not up to the job.
Position Your New Leader for Success With Near-Term Goals
Many senior-level roles are not designed to produce individual accolades. Still, creating opportunities for small quick wins can generate that all-important positive momentum and demonstrate to the new hire, other leaders and the company that things are on the right track.
Good leaders typically want to make assessments before making big changes and this can provide an opportunity for a quick win. Turn assessment into an assignment, with recommendations and you have created a situation where you can ensure everyone is on the same page and you can capitalize on outside perspective.
In addition, setting a few short-term goals provides a natural framework for a check-in where both the manager and the new hire can discuss progress and provide feedback so there are fewer surprises down the road.
Avoid the Tiny New Toy Syndrome
We’ve all seen it. A new employee, perhaps with a new skill set, joins the team and it’s like everyone else is forgotten, not unlike Woody when Buzz Lightyear showed up in Toy Story. If you set up a new hire as a shiny new toy representing the future of your business, prepare for some resentment. Or if not resentment, you may find an undesirable shift to focus growth efforts on a new area, with insufficient focus on other core parts of your business.
We’re a fan of team goals as well as individual goals to encourage people to work together and reduce the potential for silos. This is one way to mitigate the shiny new toy syndrome. The new hire should have goals tied to their individual performance as well as goals tied to helping other areas of the business.
And as a manager, bringing on a new hire creates an opportunity for you to review other internal roles, scheduling time with your existing direct reports to check-in and possibly update goals and focus areas.
Redouble Your Development Efforts
Bringing on a new team member is a good time to augment your overall leadership team development activities. While individual accountability is necessary, establishing a collaborative culture where employees work together to achieve goals, solve problems and pursue opportunities is the key to building a sustainable business.
If too many day-to-day problems are showing up in your inbox for a response or you are longing for more proactive thinking and innovation from your team, don’t simply look to one new team member to shake things up. There’s no better time to schedule new training or team development activities than when you have new team members joining. At Thinc, we’ve seen great success with Myers Briggs leadership team assessments accompanied by six-month leadership development workshops to establish lasting behaviors, relationships and leadership culture over time.
Lead With Empathy
Senior level positions can be some of the most difficult positions to jump into. Often senior executives have left positions where they were highly successful and possessed a wealth of institutional knowledge. Early on in a new role, they have zero institutional knowledge and may be viewed with skepticism until they establish their capabilities. Acknowledging this unfamiliarity and uncertainty can allow everyone to start from the same point.
With this shared understanding, everyone can focus on working together to ensure every team member, new and existing, are aligned in pursuing the company’s goals and vision.