In my line of work, time and time again, I see organisations underestimating the importance of effective leadership transition at the executive level. Sure, onboarding is generally managed well up to the mid-management level but why are so many companies overlooking this all-important process for newly appointed executives?
Consider this alarming statistic from the Corporate Executive Board: 50 to 70 per cent of executives fail within the first 18 months. And it makes no difference whether they have been promoted internally or are completely new to the organisation. Pretty scary stuff, right? Regardless of a person’s role within a company, they need support to succeed in a new position from day one. Additionally, executives need to be crystal clear in terms of their own mandate and just how vital building solid, trusting relationships in the workplace are.
A well-planned leadership transition that covers the following key areas gives new executives the best chance at truly succeeding in their new role.
The operations that make your business tick
By ensuring newly-appointed executives are participating in relevant business meetings and workshops from the get-go, people have the opportunity to build relationships and see firsthand how the company functions. By having the chance to participate in these discussions and decisions, executives can start piecing those all-important jigsaw pieces together to impact their first 90 days in the role.
It also goes without saying that executives should receive documentation of the organisation’s short and long-term plans, in addition to being formally introduced to key people within the company. This helps to remind everyone in the organisation that they don’t operate in a silo and that collaboration across the board is essential to success.
The people who help your organisation to thrive
“Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” - Richard Branson
It always amazes me how those small touches can impact people’s ability to work effectively as a team. While it can be positive for employees to be somewhat of a blank book when a new executive joins the team, it’s wise to consider if select information is essential for the executive to guide the people they will be managing or working with on a daily basis. Making executives aware of people conflict or issues with important stakeholders can make all the difference and avoid newcomers feeling like they are walking into certain situations blindfolded. Also, carefully consider whether background information about staff performance may be useful. Information such as career histories and performance data for key team members can help executives to get the best out of people and keep the lines of communication open.
The stakeholders who are integral to the business’s success
Identifying key stakeholders early on is vital to a successful leadership transition. CEOs, CFOs and board members can have a significant impact on a newly appointed executive’s ability to succeed. Of course, it’s also important to equip people with relevant organisational charts and to provide leaders with lists of key internal and external stakeholders. Meetings and briefings should be used effectively and strategically to allow the newcomer to adapt their communication style and approach with each different stakeholder as needed.
The workplace culture that defines your company
Those involved in the hiring process will usually have a pretty good grasp on a person’s ethos and approach. However, it is always best if culture is spelled out to newcomers via formal briefings to eliminate assumption. Unless part of their role involves changing company culture, the executive needs to understand the existing company culture. This will help to make any transition as seamless as possible.
Building and implementing an effective leadership transition process can be difficult but it is vital to the long-term success of any business. Doing so from within can bring about its fair share of challenges. If your organisation needs a hand, reach out for support and to discuss your business’s unique needs.
Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746. www.ontalent.com.au