You see them lying in the street in the way of the oncoming bus.


“Want some help?”

“Yes please, but not until the bus gets here.”

You know that makes no sense.

How then does it make sense for someone waiting to get on board a new team?

40% of new leaders fail in their first 18 months. While less than 10% of the people PrimeGenesis helps fail, almost everyone that’s offered our help and rejects it struggles in their new role. It’s painful. Even though we didn’t throw them under the bus, we failed to get them out of the way of the bus, let alone in the right seat on the bus.

Stanford Business School’s former dean, Robert Joss explained one of the underlying root causes twenty years ago when he told me that only 20% of people have enough self-confidence to be open to help. Those 20% have a dramatically higher chance of success. Half of the rest are going to fail. The other half are going to struggle on their own.

You can’t see it in their demeanor. They seem to be confident. They may think they’re confident. But they’re delusional. They think the bus is going to stop just before it runs them over. Or they think Scottie’s going to beam them up to the bus just in time.

Not going to happen. Joining a new team is like jumping onto a bus in motion. If you don’t get up speed before you leap, it’s going to pass you by or run you over.

This is why getting a head start before the start is so important.

Follow the six steps laid out in my earlier article on leveraging the Fuzzy Front End

1. Approach. Identify the need for change and the readiness for change. The context you’re facing determines how fast you should move. (Need for change.) The current culture determines how fast and effectively you can move. (Readiness for change.) The key question is: How significantly and how fast does the organization need to change given its business environment, history and recent performance? Too slow and the bus runs you over. Too fast and the bus can’t catch you.

2. Stakeholders. Identify your key stakeholders. These are the people who can have the most impact on your success in your new role. Many transitioning executives fail to think through this process or look in only one direction to find their key stakeholders. Others make the mistake of treating everyone the same and end up trying to please all of them. Make sure you know who else is on the bus before you jump on.

3. Message. Craft your initial, going-in message. Before you talking to any of your stakeholders, you’ll want to clarify your current best thinking on this to make sure you’re on the right bus. This will guide your initial questions, likely 1) What’s the mission? 2) What’s your role? 3) How can I help?

4. Relationships. Jump-start key relationships and accelerate your learning. These two items work hand in hand. You achieve this by conducting pre-start meetings and phone calls now, before you start. The impact you can make by reaching out to critical stakeholders before you start is incalculable. These are the people that will help get you out of the street and onto the bus.

5. Set up. Manage your personal and office set-up well before Day One. No matter how much you try, you cannot give the new job your best efforts until you get comfortable about your family’s and your own setup. Make sure there’s actually a seat for you on the bus.

6. Plan your Day One, early days and first 100 days. Don’t be the dog that runs after the bus, catches it, and doesn’t know what to do next. Think through how you’re going to keep converging after Day One, building relationships.

Then lay out your current best thinking on when to pivot from converging to evolving. You’ll want to jump-start your strategic, operating and organizational processes by the end of your first 100-days to guide where the bus is going, how it’s going to get there, and who’s going to be on it.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #782) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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