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New Leaders Need a ‘JumpStart’ for Success

By Carol Piras, Managing Partner, The Piras Group

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Leaders are on the move.  In both large and small companies and organizations, executives are taking on new roles, getting promoted or taking on larger responsibilities through organizational restructuring.  With new teams and demanding responsibilities, leaders have about 90 days to get on the right track and start creating wins.

Trends in the Success of Transitioning Leaders

As organizational consultants and coaches, we have worked with hundreds of leaders transitioning into these new roles.  We see that today’s transitioning leaders are under tremendous pressure to succeed early and fast—to prove themselves and get results.  Not only is the pace of work increasing but the expectations for immediate success can be daunting.

The assumption is that if an organization hires or promotes leaders who are talented, experienced and highly motivated, they will succeed.  If they are smart, they will “figure it out.”  But the data doesn’t support that.  In the fast-moving new world of work, leaders need a little help to jumpstart their success.

After 25 years in the trenches with fast-paced organizations, it’s no surprise to us that many new leaders fall short of expectations or fail outright..  In an earlier blog (link to blog), we cited research attesting to the sad fact that 30% of external executive hires fall far short of expectations within the first two years.  Similarly, 23% of internal executives who transfer to new roles also fail in the first two years.

The cost of failure is a significant blow, not only to the confidence and career of the new leader but to the organization as well.

Pitfalls of Leaders in New Positions

Why do these leaders fall short of expectations when they are clearly motivated, have a great track record, and the organization is betting on their success?   We have observed that while these new leaders strive hard to succeed, they default to action far too quickly without taking the necessary steps to set themselves up for success.  Here are the most common pitfalls:

  • New leaders aren’t told what’s expected of them. Often these expectations are only made explicit when the new leader falls short! 
  • New leaders need an early assessment of their new team, a firm grasp of their own capabilities, and know their limitations. Unfortunately, most newly-hired leaders are not held accountable to take the full measure of what they can truly bring to the table, and instead  believe they can do it all and navigate the waters on the fly, never comprehending or anticipating the pitfalls inherent in their personal style or the possibility of knowledge gaps in their new team.
  • New leaders must understand the culture they are entering and the political challenges.  Otherwise they frequently fail to identify land-mines; miss the opportunity to cultivate and nurture important relationships; and fall short of forming the key alliances so critical to any leader’s success.

Critical Areas Contributing to Success for Transitioning Leaders

In our experience, new leaders can be successful with the right kind of support at the right time.  Companies and organizations don’t often think about the need to help a leader assimilate beyond the basics.  They leave too much to chance.  Often it is only when the new leader is struggling and the risk of failure becomes real that some measure of support comes into play.  This support often includes coaching, but way too late in the game.

The right kind of support begins before a new leader assumes the new role, or at least within the first few critical days or weeks. This support helps the new leader ‘go slow to go fast.’  It accelerates their “time to productivity” by using a proven roadmap.  While each leader’s situation is unique, we have found addressing these four areas to be critical:

  1. Reflecting on one’s capabilities, both strengths and weaknesses, and understanding what is required, in the new role
  2. Engaging with key stakeholders (boss, peers, key players, team) to understand expectations and create alignment
  3. Creating strategies for engagement, communication, and decision-making that enroll others and create momentum
  4. Discovering and managing the team’s strengths and weaknesses early, in order to properly align the team for success

New Jumpstart Series Offered

Over the last twenty years we have engaged numerous leaders and helped them achieve success within their first 90 days.  We have learned what works.  We help JumpStart new leaders so they do not overlook these four critical areas.  We help them create a plan to learn, engage, enroll and succeed.  Sometimes all that is needed is a four-hour Leader and Team Assimilation process to align expectations within a team. Sometimes a more robust full-day Business Team Strategizing meeting is necessary to hone strategy, prioritize goals and align stakeholders across and within the organization.  And sometimes what has proved most valuable is Leader Transition Coaching to accelerate the new leader’s success over the first 90 days, with the creation and use of an action-oriented roadmap to plan, engage, enroll and get results.  In all cases, our goal is to accelerate their successful transition as a new leader.  Download our brochure to take a look at our new service offering these options: Jumpstart Series.

How can an organization and a new leader not afford to ‘go slow to go fast’ and Jumpstart their success?


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