Are you investing in the on-boarding or assimilation of new leaders?

In blog post like The 4th “C” in Hiring, I’ve shared thoughts and encouragement around the process of hiring key leaders in an organization.  Today, I’d like to focus on the importance of investing in the on-boarding or assimilation of new leaders.  It’s an often overlooked part of the process that can make or break the leader’s success in meeting the desired outcomes and, even, staying on-board long term with the organization.

Generally speaking, the first 3-6 months for a new leader of a team are absolutely critical.  It’s during this time period that key stakeholders and team members are answering the question as to whether or not this is a person worthy of following.  During the hiring process, the key stakeholders made an assessment of Character, Competence, Chemistry, and Calling.  Now, during the initial few months, key stakeholders are assessing the leaders true alignment with their initial perceptions of these characteristics as well as other criteria.

Additionally, most organizations tend to have a few sacred cows around.  You know, those area for which if a new leaders steps into without prior knowledge, could be a land mind.  One that, if not given the proper benefit of the doubt, could blow up in the new leaders face and cause irreconcilable damage.

While the statistic vary, you’ve likely heard a few of them associated the the cost of a bad new hire.  Some estimate the cost of failure to be as high as 2-3  time the new leaders annual salary when you look at the set backs an organization must overcome.  I believe there is great variation in these statistics as I know organizations who have lost nearly everything as a result of the failed leadership.

Given all of this, what more and more organizations are finding has tremendous value is investing in on-boarding or assimilation of their new leaders.  In what normally is about a 6 month agreement, I partner with the new leader and their team to aid them in getting off on the right foot.

One of the most important parts of the process and a key reason for it to be conducted by a 3rd party coach is the assimilation interview process.  Normally best conducted around the 3rd month, these interviews allow key stakeholders to provide non-biased, transparent feedback of their initial assessment of the leader.

Equally as important, stakeholders are able to give the new leader insight on how to best succeed in their new role.  Things like the following might be questions I ask in interviews of the leader’s key stakeholders and direct reports:

  1. What does the new leader need to know about the culture and how it might need to look differently?
  2. What are your expectations of the new leader?
  3. How would you like to see things look differently 3, 6, 12 months from now?
  4. What’s the new leader need to know about his manager/leader?
  5. What are those sacred cows the new leader needs to be aware?

Again, these question are focused at the future, where as, others are designed to check in to see how things are going to date.  As you can imagine, the feedback coming in these depersonalized assessments is invaluable.  Most times, the outcome is to make adjustments in the new leaders course that might seemly be minor early on; however, avoid major issues downstream.

To further emphasize the importance of the process, I’d like to share an analogy that Jake Barker, Executive Pastor, Traders Point Christian Church used in a recent message discussing mission drift.  Jake says:

In the absence of values, particularly articulated values that we all rally around, what our church will
experience is a thing called mission drift. Maybe you’ve experienced this in a church, or an organization,
or a team. It’s this thing called mission drift. It’s when you set out on your course together and at the
very beginning everyone was aligned, everyone was excited, everyone was pulling in the same direction.
Then about a year later you looked up and you realized, “Wait, we are way off course. We have totally
missed the mark.” Something happened between there and here and it’s called mission drift.

It doesn’t take much. Imagine that last week you got a phone call from the NFL and they said,
“Congratulations, you have won the opportunity to paint the boundary lines of our Super Bowl field. You
won the most random sweepstakes of all time. You won it, congratulations. You’ve got to get to San

You are there and you start at one end of the field and you look at where you are going and you set out
and you’re really, really close but you’re just 0.1 degree off course in your calculation. By the time you
get to the other end of the field you would be five feet off of your mark. Just 0.1 degree will leave you
five feet off of where you were supposed to be. Do you think that the Broncos or the Panthers would
have cared about a five-foot discrepancy? Yeah, I think so.

Yes, in Jake’s example, a seemly small amount of 0.1 degrees can make a dramatic impact down the line.  In Jake’s terms, he’s referring to the importance of grounding in the proper values and mission.  While this is absolutely important for new leaders as well, I quoted Jake’s example simply to highlight “small course corrections” early on in the process can make a huge difference for the new leader and you’re organization downstream.

So, what do you say?  Wouldn’t it be worth a conversation to discuss how a small investment might make a huge impact on the success of a leader and their organization?  While this process is often conducted face-to-face, I’ve also found it extremely successful utilizing my online coaching services; so, geography isn’t an issue.  Also, while designed for new leaders, I’ve got a similar process for leaders of all stages of life.

I hope this helps and looking forward to hearing how I might serve you and your team!

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