Much of onboarding is just common sense. There's very little you'll have to do to manage the process of going into a new job or role that you don't know how to do. The issue is how much of it you have to do and how little time you have to do it right. People form impressions of others in a blink. It's not right. It's not fair. But it is what happens.
This is why it's so important to make sure you have the leverage you need to be successful. Think in terms of mentors, coaches and transition accelerators.
When King Odysseus left Ithaca to fight the Trojan War, he entrusted the care of his kingdom and his son to Mentor. In a business context, a mentor is a more experienced individual who guides an executive’s development. Mentoring is the right choice when the only thing you need is on-the-job knowledge sharing and help navigating relationships.
Coaching is behind the scenes leadership development. It is a way to support high-performers one-on-one through challenging organizational changes or other transitions. If you need extra help, you may need a coach.
In complex situations where hands-on operationally experienced help is necessary to help an executive quickly adjust to shifts in role, culture or strategy, transition acceleration is the right help.
Here's an analogy. Professional golfers have coaches and caddies. The coaches are behind the scenes advisors between tournaments. The caddies, like harbor pilots and mountain climbing Sherpas, advise and counsel, but their real value is in their tangible contributions on the field of play. Where mentors and coaches work with individual executives, transition accelerators engage the full business team. So a transition accelerator will give you the most leverage for the most tricky situations.
[excerpted and adapted from Onboarding (Bradt and Vonnegut – Wiley, 2009)