40% of new leaders fail in their first 18 months. A lot of these failures are preventable, including the ones that could have been mitigated if the new leader had done the right due diligence to uncover and mitigate organizational, role, and personal risks by getting answers to three critical questions:
What is the organization’s sustainable competitive advantage?
(To get at organizational risk.)
Did anyone have concerns about this role; and, if so, what was done to mitigate them?
(To get at role risk.)
What, specifically, about me, led the organization to offer me the job?
(To get at personal risk.)
Scouts, Seconds, Spies
Getting at these often requires help from scouts, seconds, and spies. Scouts are people outside the organization with a view in. Think in terms of customers, suppliers, analysts. Seconds are people inside the organization with a bias to help with the new leader's onboarding. Think in terms of the new leader's boss, HR, internal coaches and mentors and the like. Spies are people inside the organization not afraid to tell truth to power. Think about the administrative support network or people several levels down.
Not all risks are the same.
If you’re facing – You should:
A low level of risk – Do nothing out of the ordinary (but keep your eyes open for the inevitable changes to come).
Manageable risk – Manage it in the normal course of your job.
Mission-crippling risk – Resolve before accepting the job or mitigate before doing anything else if already in the job.
Insurmountable barriers – Walk away.