40% of new leaders get fired, forced out, or quit within their first 18 months because they fail to fit, deliver, or adjust to changes down the road. The main problems through the seven stages of executive onboarding can be solved by thinking marketing, selling, buying, getting a head start, converging, evolving, and adjusting – in that order.

 

  1. Before the first contact, you need to get noticed, making your new employer aware of and then pay attention to you. This requires differentiated personal positioning and marketing.
  2. Between the first contact and offer, don’t think anyone cares about you or what you can do. They don’t. Sell what you can do for them.
  3. At the offer, switch from selling to buying with due diligence to overcome your bias to accept the offer.
  4. Leverage the Fuzzy Front End between acceptance and start, skipping that problematic break to get a head start, jump-starting critical relationships in particular.
  5. The early days of new jobs are littered with the remains of failed executives who tried to lead before they had earned the right to lead. Keep converging until it’s time to pivot.
  6. Then, at the right time, pivot from converging to evolving, co-creating a burning imperative inspiring and enabling all with the mission and the mission-critical parts of their jobs.
  7. When things change, you can’t control that. But you can control how you react to change to do their job, their way.

 

I Marketing

Marketing solves the getting noticed problem.

 

  1. Know yourself. Think through your own five-step career plan: likes and dislikes, long-term goals, ideal job criteria, options, choices in light of your goals and criteria, and a gut check.
  2. Find your 90/10 losing positioning. Instead of being generally acceptable to 60% of the people, be the one 90% of people want nothing to do with and 10% have to have.
  3. Build awareness with people you know, people they know, and the mass market. Put yourself in opportunities’ way – one of the leadership lessons to learn from Garth Brooks.

 

II Selling

Nobody cares about you. They care about what you can do for them. Thus, answer the only three interview questions by focusing on motivations you have in common with the organization, the strengths they need, and your personal preferences that most closely fit with their culture.

III Buying

Everything switches at the moment of an offer. You go from selling to buying. If you’ve followed our advice and focused on selling to this point, everything you’ve done and said – including your questions – has been geared to getting the offer. Don’t let your excitement about the offer temper the quality of your due diligence. Better to turn down an offer than take it and fail.

IV Jump-starting onboarding

Those taking advantage of the time between accepting and starting and embracing this Fuzzy Front End do dramatically better in the early days of their new role. The prescription is relatively simple. Get a head start. Plan. Get set up. Jump-start relationships and learning.

V Converging in Early Days

A critical aspect of your personal 100-Day Action Plan is your organizing concept – essentially the strategy behind your current best thinking on a headline message. During your early days, test, learn about and improve your organizing concept by asking questions generally getting at others’ view of:

 

  • The organization’s mission
  • Their own role or the mission’s impact on them
  • How you can help

 

VI Evolving

There’s an art to timing your pivot from converging to evolving: too fast and people won’t follow you; too slow and they will have already set off in a different direction.

The pivot is the moment you switch from asking to answering questions. It works best if you and your leadership team co-create a burning imperative and the plan to deliver it.

 

 

Having done that, you can reference all your answers back to “What we agreed together.”

VII Adjusting

Respond appropriately to the changes that come your way.

 

  • Manage through those with minor, temporary impacts.
  • Deploy crisis management protocols for those with major, temporary impacts.
  • Evolve through those with minor, enduring impacts.
  • Push a restart button when hit below the waterline with a major, enduring impact.

 

After every adjustment, re-calibrate your influence and impact by making sure you’re focused on the mission-critical parts of your role within the culture of your organization – their job, their way.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #698) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

Follow me on Twitter.
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