Why executives fail and how onboarding coaching can help

Why executives fail and how onboarding coaching can help

January 6, 2018

Executives fail sometimes. They tend to say that they didn’t find what they expected in a new job, that their bosses had changed or didn’t give them the resources they needed. Their bosses say that the new hire didn’t meet the expectations, didn’t do what was expected. They also sometimes think that the person they selected had changed after starting work.

Failure is actually two folded. And it is not always the selection mistake, many things can go wrong on first days of the new job. Or even before. Organizations are more like living organisms than machines, they don’t always greet a new in-plant happily, more often than not some antibodies are formed and sometimes these become stronger than the new hire. If we are talking about a CEO, then his or her surroundings are far wider than immediate organization: the CEO has to be in good terms with lots of stakeholders outside – the board, community, opinion leaders etc. All this is quite a complex network of relationships and without a clear focus it is easy to get lost. And loss of control and initiative is the main danger for a new CEO.

Bigger organizations usually have some formal policy in place called onboarding. These practices differ widely in content and effectiveness. A recent research indicates that most of the programs include familiarization with administrative arrangements, business orientation and legal formalities. At the same time, only in about half of the cases corporate onboarding process includes something that helps the new executive to align with expectations of teams and bosses. Even fewer corporate onboarding cases deal with stakeholders and facilitating culture familiarization.

This seems to be the main problem – corporate programs often fail to focus on most important things and deal only with areas that are easier to handle. One of the key success factors of becoming an effective and well-functioning member of an organization is familiarizing yourself with the culture, becoming a part of it. The other elements are making sure you are aligned with the expectation of the bosses/the team and taking charge of the team. Without a conscious effort, this rarely happens in a great way, smoothly and quickly, if it happens at all.

Some headhunters – like ourselves – offer additional service to our clients and other new executives, that we call onboarding support or onboarding coaching. This is like insurance for the hiring company – after having made considerable investment in finding a great person, it is reasonable to spend a little more to help him or her to become fully effective as soon as possible and minimise the dangers that something will go wrong at the early stage of employment. We become sparring partners for the new executives, help them to compose their 100-day plan and keep themselves focused on this. If possible, we also involve some stakeholders of the organization in the process – the immediate manager and HR director. Being an attentive and experienced “other” allows us to question ideas and suggest some aspects of the onboarding process that might need the executive’s’ attention.

One of the key themes for a new executive is getting to good working relationships with his or her immediate team (or teams). As you know – people are selected for competencies and experiences they have gained in their careers, something they can utilise in the new position. If they leave early it is often because there is no good fit with people they work with. Often this mismatch can be alleviated by tuning one’s approach according to personalities and values of your closest colleagues. One part of onboarding effort is therefore always getting to know and developing good working relationships with one’s co-workers. Tools like Teamscope team profiling can be used to assess the team culture and plan your way to great working relationships with immediate colleagues.

And to conclude – one last tip – beware of day 1! We remember what is presented first and last, and tend to forget the middle items. So, this is why the first day on the job is extremely important. There will be no second chance to create first impression. A great handbook for new executive recommends considering at least the following things:

●     Who will you meet on your first day and in what order?

●     Where will you be on your first day (head office? The office closest to you? Meeting your closest colleagues informally for a dinner?)

●     What is the message you want the stakeholders to get from your first appearance?

●     When will you start – on your first day you get paid or perhaps even earlier?