It’s a golden opportunity – the Fuzzy Front End between accepting or being named to a new position and actually starting. Those taking advantage of that time and embracing the full potential of executive onboarding do dramatically better in the early days of their new role. Those not taking advantage of that time tend to have much less pleasant experiences. The prescription is relatively simple. Take advantage of the time. Plan. Get set up. Invest in relationships and learning.

Take advantage of the time

Leveraging the Fuzzy Front End to get a head start makes so much sense from any perspective that it always amazes me when people resist the chance. The excuses sound like this.

My old firm wants me to work until the Friday before I start my new job.

My new firm wants me to start as soon as possible.


I need to take some time off and recharge (with or without family).

That’s what people with a victim mentality say. They’re not in control of their own choices. Not you. You are in charge of you. By the end of this article you will understand how to take advantage of the time and know it’s more valuable than squeezing the time between jobs or taking a vacation.


This is basic. Preparation breeds confidence. As Vince Lombardi (or someone else) said, “The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.” Build a plan:

• Think through the context and culture to inform your onboarding approach.

• Identify stakeholders up, down and across (internal and external).

• Craft your message.

• Lay out the specific steps you’re going to do before day one, in your early days and over your first 100-days.

The main excuse we hear from people who do not want to craft a plan is that they don’t know enough to craft the perfect plan. Here’s the bad news. You’re never going to know enough. At any moment in time, you know what you know. You’re always better off clarifying your current best thinking. This gives you testable hypotheses that lead to directed learning. Essentially it changes you from reactively waiting for someone else to show you the way to being in charge of you.

Get set up

This is hygiene stuff. Won’t help you win. Will keep you from getting distracted and losing. Make sure someone is getting your ID cards, passwords, office, computer, new iphone X and everything else set up before Day One so you don’t have to worry about it. Make sure your family is set – especially if it involves a new house, school or the like.

Jumpstart relationships

The impact of reaching out to your few most critical stakeholders ahead of your first day is incalculable. Think about your boss(es), board members, critical peers, customers, clients and direct reports – especially the direct report who wanted your job and/or is a flight risk. Give them a call. Set a brief meeting. Ask them for their perspective on what you’re getting into.

This works. It works because new leaders can focus on these conversations before Day One instead of having to fit them in between operating meetings after they start. It works because asking for help before you start is a great way to start a relationship (per Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability).

Jumpstart learning

Imagine you’ve just crossed the border from Ethiopia into Kenya. You’ve cleared immigration and are getting back on the highway. What must you do first?

Change lanes. People drive on the right in Ethiopia and on the left in Kenya.

Most of you didn’t know that. Most of you won’t know what’s different in your new organizations. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman taught us why we need to lean on our System 2 deliberate thinking versus System 1 intuitive thinking in new situations.

Learn what’s different so you don’t drive on the wrong side of the new culture.