How Leaders Set Themselves up for Success
Overcoming poor organizational onboarding… 7 measures great leaders do to ensure success.
“The new leader is a facilitator, not an order giver.” — John Naisbitt
Whenever a new leader accepts a role with a company, they should receive some type of onboard training & orientation to set them up for success; however, we all know that’s not always the case. A recent global survey revealed that nearly 70% of senior executives have difficulty adapting with organizational culture, policies, and peer alliances (from Egon Zehiner/Genesis Advisers). Are you kidding me? 70% is simply unacceptable when you’re talking about leaders not adapting! Just imagine what the rest of the team feels like!
Who knows why organizations fail at setting their new leaders up for success, however, with or without an onboarding process, companies hire leaders because of their proven ability to lead. Whether we like it or not, organizations expect new leaders to arrive and start performing at their peak level immediately. If you’re a seasoned leader, you know that’s the cold, hard truth! Companies pay leaders the ‘big bucks’ to lead, not to sit through training & orientation briefings.
The best leaders however, rise up and take matters into their own hands to set themselves up for success. These leaders diagnose their surroundings quickly, study & learn to get oriented, and adapt to their new environment, with or without the official fanfare onboarding process.
Here are a seven measures I have personally observed great leaders do over the past 30+ years when accepting new leadership roles… I hope you can take away a few tips to help set yourself up for success.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time
Preparing ahead of time starts by reaching out to your new employer long before your arrival. You can get a head start by asking for biographies of your team. Bios are a great way to gauge who’s who, and many companies have a file of short bios with pictures. Great leaders walk through the door on day one, being able to recognize several team members and call them by their first names. This makes a great first impression and goes a long way in establishing solid relationships.
2. Meet with Key Players
Synching up with the key players in every major department immediately after arriving is vitally important. These “key players” include department heads and whoever the department heads say are vital to the success of their departments. When new leaders start out meeting with and listening to the department heads from the start, they quickly establish respect with their team.
3. Be Patient Upon Arrival
Naturally new leaders want to jump in and get going. However, great leaders are patient when they first arrive and they realize slow can be very fast in the beginning. They are patient as they diagnose everything going on around them, and learn the company policies and procedures by reading and observing. Patience and quality slow time in the beginning can pay huge dividends over time.
4. Remain Yourself
Don’t try to clone your predecessor, even if your predecessor was amazing. True greatness comes to those who focus on their personal strengths, skills and talents. When we try to be somebody we are not, we step outside our personal zone of excellence, and the chances of achieving greatness alludes us. Remain yourself, and it will be one less thing you have to worry about trying to learn.
5. Get to Know Your People Quickly, Slowly!
Great leaders waste no time getting to know their people on a personal level. This is much different than meeting with them and reviewing biographies; this involves intentional conversations that really paints a picture of who your teammates are. Be quick to schedule time to get to know them, but slow and intentional with your conversations.
6. Strive to Learn the Company Culture by Observing & Asking
An organization’s culture is not easily understood, especially from the outside looking in. Begin to learn the culture during the hiring process by asking specific questions that only an employee would know. Leaders can’t change a culture totally, but an influential leader can have a positive impact, and change it slowly over time (if needed). Since the organization’s culture includes a mixture of beliefs, values, and behaviors of all the employees, you’ll never truly learn what the culture is by reading about it — you must strive to know and understand what makes the people of the organization “tick.”
7. Communicate by Listening!
Much like the opening quote eludes to, it’s wise for a new leader not to start barking orders immediately. New leaders can communicate by listening to everything going on around them. You should also write down tons of inquisitive questions that come to mind while you’re listening. You can learn a lot your first week by keeping your mouth closed and your ears & eyes wide open. You will know when the time is right to start asking questions.
The bottom line is leaders need to have a plan to take matters into their own hands when onboarding should be occurring. Taking a new role with an organization is an exciting time, and the onboarding / orientation should be focused on setting people up for success — especially when it comes to leadership. Leaders can initiate the process themselves during the hiring process and long before their arrival. One of the primary keys is to put your efforts into establishing solid professional relationships with your team. Put forth the effort mentioned in the measures above, and you’ll set yourself up for success!
“Run to Your Challenges… to Achieve Greatness & Stand Out Among Leaders!”
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