While any executive onboarding into a new role is going through a crucible of leadership, if that role has been newly created, be prepared to deal with a whole different level of complications and challenges. You’ll have to get all aligned around the new role’s remit, build relationships with people that have been displaced, and create new ways of working.

The seven stages of executive onboarding always apply from before the first contact through offer, acceptance, converging through the Fuzzy Front end and early days before pivoting to evolving the team. In this case, focus especially on the different aspects of due diligence, relationships and ways of working.

Due Diligence

Pay attention to three key due diligence questions to get at organization, personal and role risk in particular because role risk is heightened when the role is new.

If you’re coming into a new role, at least part of what you’re going to be doing was previously done by somebody else. Understand how things were done before. Understand who worked for and interacted with whom. Identify the people giving up something, up, down and across from this new role. Understand their concerns and what’s being done to mitigate those concerns.

A big part of mitigating those concerns will be their buying into the new role’s remit – why the organization needed the new role to help it be more successful and the responsibilities and authority of the person in the role.

Build Relationships

In any role, there are a handful of critical relationships – people with whom you must partner to be successful. Find them. Jump-start relationships with them even before you start.

This is more complicated going into a newly created role. Some of the people with whom you must partner will be used to partnering with or even working directly for somebody else.

Per my earlier article on how to handle direct reports that wanted your new job,

  1. Invite them in. Assuming they have the strengths and fit the culture you’re building, invite them to be part of your new team – because it will be a new team. Be explicit. Take them aside one on one and tell them you want them onboard. Only they can assess their own motivation. This is where they get to choose.
  2. Support them. Once you’ve invited them in, give them your full support. Don’t second guess yourself. Make it as easy for them to do their jobs as possible.
  3. Wait for them to choose – but not too long. Give them six to eight weeks to choose. You’re looking for them to proactively come to you by the end of that period and say something like, “You know I was doing part of your job before and had some questions about why we needed you. But I get it now. I know why they created the role and put you in it. And I know how that’s going to be good for me. I’m looking forward to working with you.” If they do that, keep supporting them.

If they don’t do it by the end of six to eight weeks, the odds of them ever doing it are relatively small. Expect them to work to undermine you with their old boss, peers and colleagues. Their choice gives you no choice. You have to help them find a role working for someone else.

Ways of Working

As Deming told us, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the result that it does.” The organization created your new role and put you in it to get different results. That means you must change the system. At its most simple, this is about new delegation levels. Align all, up, across and down on your new role’s

  • Direction/objectives/desired results/intent – what and why – focus on intent behind this new role and its context within the broader organization.
  • Resources: financial, information, technical or operational, people, time.
  • Authority to make tactical decisions within strategic boundaries/guidelines for you and for your direct reports. This is a critical change. Clarify where your boss or others make decisions, where you make decisions, and where your direct reports are making decisions. Clarify where you want to provide input or just be informed either before or after the fact.
  • Accountability and consequences (standards of performance, time expectations, positive and negative consequences of success and failure.)

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