Strategies for Effective Executive Onboarding: Settling into a New Leadership Role

Strategies for Effective Executive Onboarding: Settling into a New Leadership Role was originally published on Ivy Exec.

McKinsey & Company suggests that leadership transitions have significant impacts. If leaders have difficult transitions, then their direct reports see a 15% decrease in their performance and are 20% more likely to disengage or quit. 

After two years, somewhere between 27 and 46% of leadership transitions are deemed unsuccessful. 

On the other hand, the same report says that successful leadership transitions decrease team attrition rates by 13% and generate 5% more profit than other teams. 

So, if you’re making a leadership transition, it’s important to ensure the process goes smoothly. Here are our tips for making an effective transition into a new role.


☑ Create your “new-leader pitch.”

Your new team may be skeptical of you, even if they’ve known you in other contexts.

This can be a challenging hurdle to overcome, especially if you beat out your former peers for the role and now are their supervisor. 

So, your first step in your newly-assumed role is creating a “new-leader pitch,” a term coined by David Sluss writing in Harvard Business Review. The idea is to talk about who you are and what you’ve done that will make you successful in your new role. 

This pitch should talk about who you are personally without oversharing. 

“Research shows that when a direct report has a strong connection with a leader, the report is more likely to identify with the organization, engage in creative behavior, and help others at work,” said Sluss. 

Another strategy for the new-leader pitch involves telling your story beyond your resume, especially how you want to bring your expertise and vision to the new organization. 

Your new team wants “you to stake your claim as the new leader through your career “story” or narrative. They want to know, for instance, why this particular job makes sense for you at this time,” Sluss added.


☑ Don’t rush to make an impact.

When you take on a new leadership role, you might worry that you need to make an impact right away.

But it isn’t necessary to implement your strategic vision too early. 

“92 percent of external and 72 percent of internal hires take far more than 90 days to reach full productivity. Sixty-two percent of external and 25 percent of internal hires admit that it took them at least six months to have real impact,” said McKinsey senior partners Scott Keller and Mary Meaney.

Instead, your team will respect you if you get to know them and their roles before developing your leadership plan. If you meet with each one individually, you’ll understand what they’re looking for in a leader and what they need from you. 

You should also make sure you understand company culture and pain points completely before assuming you know how to fix everything.


☑ Decide what kind of leader you want to be.

Whether you’re a seasoned executive or you’ve been tapped for your first experience, a leadership transition is an ideal time to figure out what kind of leader you want to be. Perhaps you weren’t happy with how you came across in your last role. Or maybe the style you adopted before didn’t feel authentic. 

Now is the best time for a fresh start. 

Leadership coach Carrie-Ann Barrow says there are five types of leaders and leadership “directions.” These are: 

  • Visionary leaders – lead from the front 
  • Purpose-led leaders – lead from within
  • Collaborative leaders – lead from beside
  • Servant leaders – lead from behind
  • Intuitive leaders – lead from in the field

Barrow doesn’t suggest picking just one of these leadership orientations but choosing several to create a unique style for yourself. 

“Challenge yourself to think about how you can incorporate all of these styles. Do you naturally gravitate toward one approach? How does it serve you? What other leadership approaches could be effective in different scenarios? Get creative and experiment to see what works,” she said.


☑ Determine which metrics let you know if your plan is succeeding or not.

When you’re a new leader, you may have to use trial and error with your ideas.

But how do you know which methods are most effective? By developing effective metrics. 

“I learned that metrics can make all the difference in moving an organization from ‘good’ to ‘great.’ Metrics will change the behavior of an organization. They can help the organization focus on the important items and inspire the team to make adjustments when needed,” said Bob Ronan for CIO.


Making an Effective Leadership Transition


Successful leadership transitions are important for you and your new team.

The first step is ensuring your team understands you and why this role is significant in your career development. Next, take your time in understanding your team and choosing the leadership style that feels the most authentic to you. Finally, use metrics to determine which of your ideas work and which need to be modified. 

Don’t waste the fresh start that comes with a new leadership role. Read our guide “Self-Awareness for Executive Job Transitions: Understanding Your Strengths and Weaknesses” for more on this topic.

By Ivy Exec
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