One important onboarding best practice is to pay attention.

When I was 14 years old, I had lunch with the headmaster of the Eton school in England.  After a glass of sherry in his office, we went into lunch.  We entered a 600-year-old room with vaulted ceilings and about 100 students all dressed in academic gowns, standing absolutely still and silent while we processed up to the head table.  As we did so, I looked around to take it all in.  Well not quite all.  I missed the single step up to the head table.  And yes, I fell flat on my face.  Not exactly the impression I was trying to make.

Whether you are joining an organization or bringing someone into an organization, it’s important to pay attention to every step.  Prepare for the steps.  Navigate the steps.  Follow through on the steps.


Much of the work of onboarding takes place in one form of conversation or another.  Prepare for each conversation.  Think through the situation, your objectives, and your approach to those conversations.  It’s useful to have some general preparations for the multitude of similar conversations you’ll have.  It’s useful to do specific preparation for the most important conversations.


Webster suggests a conversation is an “exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas”.  Exchanges require at least two people.  So, as you navigate the conversations, make sure you connect with others through the opening of the conversation, the body of the conversation, and the close of the conversation.

Follow through

It’s as easy to trip coming out of a step as going into a step.  Follow through on the way to the next step.  Pause for at least a moment to think through what went particularly well and what you need to do to improve for the next step.  Deliver what you promised.  And check back with the people involved down the road to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Pay attention

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t pay attention to the things that make your situation special.  Take in the vaulted ceilings, the extraordinary people, the place of honor you deserve.  Just don’t trip on the steps along the way.

George Bradt – PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding and Transition Acceleration