This article is the first in a three-part series that will share onboarding best practices and outline a five-step process on how to integrate a new leader across the functional, cultural and organizational dimensions of your organization.
Onboarding best practices are frequently shared among HR leaders as they look to improve the success of their new hires. I presented at the MT|SHRM breakfast meeting a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to sit down with a group of local HR leaders to discuss the importance of following onboarding best practices. I started off by posing this question to the group: How would you describe your onboarding process in one or two words?
The top three responses were:
- Completely Chaotic
I shouldn’t have been surprised, especially when the group elaborated that their onboarding process is “not integrated”, has “no execution” and “no ownership”. This is a byproduct of mixing up onboarding and Leadership Integration, which poses huge risks to organizations looking to retain newly recruited top talent leaders. For those out there who share the pains of the MT|SHRM members, I wanted to take a deeper dive into how a Leadership Integration program amplifies the impact of any onboarding process HR leaders are currently following.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Leadership Integration is a strategic process with the goal of aligning new leaders across the Functional, Cultural and Organizational dimensions of your organization using a “just-in-time” learning process. Every successful Leadership Integration engagement follows a five-step process to align these three dimensions to accelerate the success of a new leader in the first 120 days.
There are four groups needed for a successful integration: the Hiring Manager, the New Leader, their Team/Direct Reports and any critical Stakeholders connected to this role. No matter who is leading the integration – a third-party facilitator, an HR representative or the Hiring Manager themselves – Leadership Integration is only successful when these three key groups are aligned and transparent with strategy and priorities.
Over the next few articles, I’ll outline how to accomplish alignment and create an operational plan for each of the three dimensions of the Transformational Leadership Model using our five-step process. I’ll also provide the steps a trained facilitator can take to ensure successful integration for the new leader. First up, the Functional dimension.
How to Functionally Integrate a New Leader
Functional integration has an unfortunate tendency to get pushed to the wayside. Leaders are hired largely for experience, leading to an assumption by the hiring manager (and leader) that their skills will seamlessly transition into this new role. Typically, where we see the functional gap is when there’s a change in industry or a progression to a higher role. The good news is that it’s one of the easiest dimensions to tackle and achieve alignment.
When you think about how the new leader needs to succeed from a functional perspective, think about the following questions:
- What are the core skills and experiences needed in this role?
- What will the functional priorities look like for the department and overall organization?
- How does and how will this leader and their function need to evolve in support of the organization’s strategy and priorities?
- What roles and responsibilities within the overall team will need to shift or change?
These questions will help you assess the current state of the role’s function before a new leader begins. Understanding the current state will help you determine how this New Leader will fill a functional gap on the team and lead other members to provide functional value for the organization. The alignment of position expectations, expected contributions in year one and a guided SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) are essential tools to create a targeted integration plan for the first 120 days on the job.
Once you establish the current state, you must cast the functional vision for this role with the New Leader. What does functional success look like? What does functional failure look like? Ensure the New Leader understands what falls under his or her functional umbrella, as well as the team they inherited. This will outline the operational direction as well as provide a measurement system for the leader and their team to show organizational impact.
To complete this vision, it is the job of the trained facilitator to provide the tools for success. An invaluable foundation that all new leaders require for success is trust. To build trust within the team and across the organization, identify quick, functional wins that will showcase the expertise of the New Leader and their team. While integrating a VP of Technology recently, we identified that his functional responsibilities needed to evolve from tactical execution to strategic vision. To build trust in his strategic abilities, he took initiative and developed a delegation plan, shifted roles and responsibilities within his team and modeled successful behaviors of others on the senior team.
He communicated his growth plan to the senior team and asked for support and continued feedback as he built these new leadership habits and competencies. This eliminated any upfront concern from his Stakeholders and set a foundation for trust and success.
Provided with a vision and the tools to execute, a New Leader is encouraged to do just that – lead the way. As a facilitator, your job is to ensure the continued alignment of the New Leader, Hiring Manager, Team/Direct Reports and Stakeholders in the last month of the integration process. Any feedback from the four groups is incorporated to finalize the functional operational plan for the remainder of the onboarding process.
After the first three months on the job, the New Leader has cast the functional vision, received and provided the tools needed to be successful and led the way to sustain success for not only themselves but their team and organization. Once all of this is in play, it’s time to reassess the current state and explore any opportunities for executive coaching down the road.
If executed correctly, you will have achieved three functional goals within the first 120 days:
- Refined and aligned position expectations from the initial job specifications and any other shared expectations from the hiring manager.
- Built a foundation of trust across the team, peers, boss and organization for the New Leader to accelerate performance.
- Set an operational plan for the New Leader and their team around functional success moving forward.
Next up, we’ll discuss how to Culturally integrate a new leader into your organization. Stay tuned!
Ginger Duncan, MA is a senior leadership consultant and executive coach with The Human Capital Group, an executive search and leadership advisory firm. She has over 20 years of experience in leadership development, coaching, facilitation and training, plus 11 years leading the talent development function in a corporate setting.