There has been a bit of a theme emerging in the world of work.
First it was the ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon that swept across the 2022 workplace landscape.
Hot on its heels came the trend for ‘quiet firing’ which emerged in response to workers quietly quitting.
And so, to the newest edition – ‘quiet hiring’.
The term has been coined by the leader of Gartner’s research team, Emily Rose McRae, who describes ‘quiet hiring’ as a way to address an immediate need for the company. The business could hire external contractors. Or, if money is tight, they might shuffle existing team members around to fill the short-term gap that has opened up.
The latter approach is, however, higher risk as uprooting people from their roles might just prompt them to begin quietly quitting! Add to that the danger of someone feeling their original role was not valued if it could be put on hold and you have a recipe for a host of unintended consequences further down the line.
The problem with having all of these ‘quiet’ approaches is that they are all being carried out, well, quietly!
Employees found themselves struggling to communicate their need for boundaries at work, and so began to quietly build them themselves. Employers were struggling with communicating with staff who they felt were underperforming, and so began to quietly push them away. And now we have companies who are trying to quietly repair skill gaps, which could result in more quiet quitting … which will, in turn, lead to more quiet firing.
It is a vicious, surreptitious cycle which could be avoided if employers and employees spoke up rather than clammed up about their mutual needs and expectations.
This means encouraging and supporting a dialogue between managers and their direct reports about their wellbeing needs, as well as managers knowing how to help employees they feel may be underperforming.
And when it comes to filling those short-term gaps, the best approach is to be open with your people about what the company needs to do – and how you plan to do it. Then sit back and listen to what they have to say, because a productive two-way dialogue is always better than the sound of silence.
To get in touch with us about any communication and culture needs you may have, head over to our contact page.
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020
With the pandemic altering the fundamental structure of work, many employers have been wading through several stages of grief as they realize there is no “returning to normal” and remote/hybrid working models are here to stay. As we venture into a new year – three years after the pandemic began – employers appear to be entering the final stage of grief: acceptance. And this ‘acceptance’ can help organizations thrive with the introducing of a Chief Remote Officer (CRO).
According to the State of Remote Work Report 2022, 60% of employers in the US require staff to work remotely or in a hybrid capacity. Now is the time for employers to embed remote work into their foundations and use it as an organizational tool. Employers who are intentional about remote working strategies will be able to build, innovate, and leverage their benefits, and this means clearly establishing how remote work will fit into your company and its culture.
This is where a CRO proves incredibly valuable; having an executive leader dedicated to optimizing remote and hybrid workers ensures a business can create and accelerate opportunity. The CRO finds ways of leveraging remote work in a healthy, productive, and profitable way for employers and employees alike.
They also design policies and programs that remove an individual’s work location as a critical factor for success. With McKinsey finding over 90 million American workers now working remotely or in a hybrid setting, the need for a specialized executive to coordinate and care for this aspect of work has become even more necessary.
Many more responsibilities fall under a CRO – establishing the most effective communication protocols, exchanging and gaining access to shared data, maintaining the organization’s culture, and repurposing the workplace to meet today’s business and workforce needs. Expanding the C-suite to include this new role reflects how many companies’ dynamics have evolved since COVID. Employee needs have changed – people value their time, recognize its importance, and are largely in favor of a remote working lifestyle.
Establishing a role like the CRO allows an organization to move away from being constantly reactive to remote and hybrid work. It is a proactive approach to meeting today’s business and workforce needs. Now is the time to begin looking at how you can best leverage this organizational tool – whether that be from an economic perspective, a people strategy perspective, or to further your environmental, social, and governance agenda. To discuss this topic further, please get in touch with me at email@example.com
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020
As we venture into this new year, none of us can be sure what the future holds. However, with ‘unprecedented’ events becoming commonplace this decade, there are sure to be more than a few surprises in store for employers over the next 12-months.
But the truth about ‘surprises’ is that very often we will have had an idea they were coming our way. So, whether it’s based on the extrapolation of an established trend or simply ‘gut instinct’ based on years’ of experience, we asked the OrgShakers to predict what will be surprising us in 2023.
What we do know for certain is that 2022 brought with it many unexpected surprises that had a great effect on the working world, and so as we venture into 2023, OrgShakers are ready to help employers optimize every opportunity that comes their way. To get in touch with us about your people strategy or organization dynamics, head over here.
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020
2022 was yet another memorable addition to the 21st century’s ‘roaring twenties’.
With the working world still adapting to the changes that the pandemic brought, as well as the rise of the metaverse and the cost-of-living crisis, there are a lot of things that employers, upon reflection, may want to leave in the past so that they can focus on the new year – and new opportunities – that lay ahead.
The OrgShakers team, therefore, have put together a list of thoughts that we think organizations should leave in 2022 in order to propel them upwards in the year to come:
If you want to get in touch with us surrounding any of these points, you can do so here!
Creating the conditions which enable employees to be engaged and motivated should be a top priority for employers. Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report, which found that only 21% of employees were actively engaged at work, sadly shed light on the fact that employee engagement is not being done effectively, or even prioritised, and the result is unhappy employees. This unhappiness will affect performance and will lead inevitably to unhappy customers and less successful business outcomes.
Employee engagement should be an important year-round focus, but we can do some things to help create a ‘reset’ at the beginning of the New Year and support our teams to reengage with their work. 16th January 2023 will be ‘Blue Monday’ in the UK, so called (and coined by a psychologist Cliff Arnall) because of people returning to work post-holiday to bad weather, debt and low levels of motivation. This does not apply to everyone of course, but how can employers help counteract this?
The end of year holiday period creates a ‘pause’ which people are often desperately looking forward to. With our ‘always on’ working lives, and what seems to have been an epidemic of overwork this year, many people are limping towards the finishing line of what has felt like the Marathon of 2022. The joy of having some rest time with family and friends also creates time and space for people to think about their lives, the good and the ‘not so good’, and in particular their work lives, and how this aligns with their personal aspirations.
Rather than just hoping that people will come back from their holidays refreshed and suddenly regain engagement, we are suggesting that employers need to be proactive this new year and enable a January ‘reset’.
A key part of a leader’s role is to tap into what motivates their people, to carry the torch for the organisational purpose and create excitement about what they are to achieve in 2023 through their ability to create an engaging story of what might be.
We would like to suggest a few things businesses can do to enable a reset:
My suggested reading for points 1. and 2. is ‘The Heart of Business’ by Hubert Joly – his personal playbook for achieving extraordinary outcomes by putting people and purpose at the heart of business.
A strong start to your business year can make all the difference and engaging in a January reset will have big business benefits. If you would like to discuss these and other ways to create this reset, you can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Gary Payne, Robert Satterwhite, and Ann Wheeler
Middle managers need to be sold on the culture and vision of your organization. When your middle managers are going to model organizational behaviors and values, it’s critical to win over their hearts and minds, and keep them motivated.
To do so, your company should:
People are motivated by purpose, particularly the younger generation. In a 2021 Deloitte survey, out of 8,273 Gen Z respondents, 49% said they chose their careers and employment based on their personal ethics.
Motivation is not solely about career advancement; people want to feel like they are adding value, meaning, and purpose within the company and beyond. They want to feel proud of their work.
Your company communications, both internal and external, need to be consistent and highlight the impact your organization is making.
Motivation is different for each individual.
Some might be driven by a promotion, while others want to avoid boredom; they fear growing stale in their career. They want to be innovators as opposed to overseers.
Take opportunities during scheduled check-ins, quarterly assessments, and year-end reviews to ask your middle managers about the vision for their careers and how that vision fits within both their current roles and potential future roles.
Whether they are striving for career advancement, or they want to expand their skillset, help them define what drives their passions and their individual goals, so your organization can create opportunities and projects to keep them interested and engaged in their work.
Many organizations see the value in dedicated mentorship programs, but it’s important to remember that people can have many mentors who will help them with various aspects of their career.
Encourage your middle managers to establish and build different relationships and get multiple sources of input.
Helping middle managers progress their career path involves three key factors:
As you are working with middle management and attempting to identify those who could grow into even greater leadership roles, it’s important to establish your criteria and competency model.
A common challenge for organizations is identifying leadership potential early enough in an individual’s career path. Often by the time they have been identified, it’s too late to ensure they get enough diverse experience to fulfill those leadership qualifications.
Assessment still needs to be viewed as an internal employee investment. The hiring rigor of qualifications needs to be applied equally to all promotions. If you want to retain the majority of your employees, it goes without saying that you need to treat people fairly and consistently.
When you are assessing internal employees for a role, make sure to communicate that you are using the exact same standards as you would for external employees. Give every internal candidate feedback throughout the process, especially if they aren’t chosen for the position.
Use the assessment process as an additional development tool, so you can build upon that feedback and provide the resources or a coach to help your internal hire candidates continue to develop.
When internal hires are promoted, they are already embedded within the organization’s DNA. There tends to be an expectation they will hit the ground running when you might give more leeway to an external hire. But as we noted earlier, that can be a weird mirage of success; it becomes very easy to fail under the burden of presupposed expectations. What made an internal hire successful in their previous role will be different from the KPIs of their new role.
Give your internal hires the same grace period you would extend to external hires:
Leadership also has to ensure the proper amount of focus is being put on strategic change and initiatives. If you want to create a coaching culture where there’s mutual team accountability, you need to create processes to support that philosophy.
Below are some questions to consider as you reexamine your current leadership development program:
At the end of the day, retaining your employees through leadership development is good risk management. You want to develop a deep bench of leaders that your organization can use to propel its growth and ultimately plot its succession plan. If you have any questions about retaining and promoting middle management or leadership development, please do not hesitate to reach out to us here.
by Gary Payne, Robert Satterwhite, and Ann Wheeler
Employee retention is a hot topic for 2023.
As economic instability continues, organizations will need to lean on leaders across all levels to maintain stability, profitability, and institutional knowledge.
In a Fall 2022 report from Slack’s Future Forum, 10,677 survey respondents from the global workforce reported an increase in burnout; it rose 8% from May to August 2022. Among US workers, the numbers were quite drastic – burnout rose to 47%.
Two of every five US respondents said they were burnt out, and the highest number of those respondents were middle managers.
These numbers should provide a wake-up call because, as you will see below, middle managers play a vital role in any organization.
Middle managers are your connecting leaders.
They often serve as:
Middle managers know what motivates their team. They help people answer, “Why do I matter to the company?” and help them see how their role fits within the overall vision.
A very savvy manager is the one who knows your employees best and has the most impact over their experience with the company. You often hear the saying, “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers,” but the inverse is also true. When a strong middle manager leaves an organization, some of their direct employees tend to follow, and your talent losses increase even further.
Middle management often operates on the front lines of organizational change, which demands a taxing balance of rigor and flexibility. They are the ones who are tasked with handling more of the honest, direct conversations that happen in work environments.
For example, during COVID-19, middle managers were responsible for helping others adjust to remote work environments. And when companies chose to institute return-to-office policies, it was middle managers who had to work through the details of employees’ schedules.
In a recent survey conducted by Odgers Berndtson US, out of the 606 survey respondents, 41% wanted to retain the option of a hybrid work environment as opposed to fully remote work or in-office. Imagine you are a middle manager who knows hybrid work is popular among employees, but leadership has decided it wants everyone in-office full time, and now you must deliver the news.
Middle managers are the ones who implement policies, even if those policies are unpopular with employees, while they continue to remain the primary motivators for their teams.
To add an additional level of pressure, while middle managers are often the ones you call upon during a crisis, they still have to think about new strategic initiatives and big picture perspectives—even if there’s not enough time to do so.
Internal hires often seem like a no-brainer. Your organization retains that employee’s loyalty and commitment and the knowledge about systems, process, and customers that is important to success. You have rewarded your employee and shown the rest of the company potential career paths; if people work hard and meet expectations, you will provide possibilities.
And yet, so often, internal hires who take on new roles struggle with the responsibilities then leave.
Individual contributors, particularly at the middle management level, will excel and get promoted, but their targeted skillset still remains that of an individual contributor. They need to learn to move away from the trigger response of a “fix it” mindset and learn how to delegate and promote team accountability. However, they are often not provided with the development and training they need.
When middle managers are promoted without training, they are being set up to fail, at which point your organization loses both the leadership role and the individual contributor skills you initially valued.
Some important skills for successful middle managers are:
A middle manager needs to handle, address, and transform conflict.
They can take a conflict and translate it into a productive discussion about individual and team growth.
It’s important to note how middle managers set the tone for these types of conversations. If they remain calm and present the ideas as part of a development discussion, then the feedback generally will be received in the same way.
Middle managers must possess a deep understanding of your organization’s values and choose to embody behaviors clearly linked to those values. A leader who can translate values into expected behaviors helps develop and build your organization’s culture.
Middle managers oversee the behaviors that get rewarded, so it’s important they are able to reinforce those behaviors both with their own actions and among their teams.
The art and science of putting together an effective team is complex. Middle managers must develop alternative options, understand, and meet metrics, and even identify new key performance indicators (KPIs) as teams change and grow.
Leadership agility is key to middle manager success.
A huge part of that flexibility is knowing how to coach and develop the team’s capabilities to bring out the best attributes and efficiency.
Keep in mind, there’s a big difference between mentors and coaches. Mentors do a lot of talking and teaching; they relay their own experiences and make suggestions. Coaching is about listening and asking questions.
In the second part of our piece, we will be discussing how employers can help motivate middle managers and grow their skills. In the meantime, if you have any burning questions, you can get in touch with us here.
In discussing the current diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda with thought leaders from the US and the UK, we have gained valuable insights into the way global events are shaping DEI strategy and practice in organizations.
A challenge raised in both conversations is that the scope of DEI has undeniably widened, primarily due to the massive societal strides that have been taken over the past few decades. Now, for example, financial wellbeing, mental health, and organizational culture all fall to DEI, as well as the recruitment and onboarding of people from an ever-widening mix of diversity dimensions.
This was the main subject of the discussion with our two UK DEI specialists – Sue Johnson and Therese Procter. They pointed out that failing to provide additional resources to deliver against this expanding portfolio risks the impact of DEI initiatives becoming diluted. To mitigate against this, companies need to consider employing a DEI specialist at board-level.
This aligns with Marty Belle and Conrad Woody’s conversation – which looks at DEI from a US perspective – in which they highlighted that inclusion starts with senior leaders acting as authentic role models for the required workplace behaviors.
A senior leadership team and board of directors that understand what inclusive behavior looks like will make inclusive decisions. And the best way of ensuring that the DEI dividend these decisions can bring is achieved, is by having a dedicated, senior DEI leader who can ensure inclusion remains at the top of the organization’s agenda.
With a diverse workforce comes diverse thinking, and this broader spectrum of perspectives will help when examining problems, as well as bring new ideas to the table. This can give you an advantage as an employer, as it means that the products and services you offer will more likely be accessible to a wider breadth of different types of people.
What these conversations have highlighted to us is that despite having an ocean between them, UK and US employers both recognise the importance of having an effective DEI strategy – and the performance dividend it can deliver. And by understanding their shared perspectives, we can help all organizations in implementing these strategies more effectively. So, if you are a business who would like to harness the power of DEI in your workplace, get in contact with us here.
To gain insight on the role Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) currently plays for US employers, we spoke with Conrad Woody, Managing Partner of Odgers Berndston’s Washington Office, and Marty Belle, Partner at OrgShakers.
“I would say in the US, the topic has always been more performative than really heartfelt,” Marty reflected. “For the majority of employers, it’s all about the bottom line… and if you’re not totally convinced that having a diverse and inclusive workplace drives profitability for you, you won’t focus on it.”
Conrad built on this, highlighting the fact that some employers are simply hiring people who look and act like their best workers because they believe this will ensure that their recruiting standards are always being met. “There is a commitment to conventional wisdom, because it’s easy to do – staying within your comfort zone is always easy!”
It is a tough mindset to crack, but it is one that Conrad and his team take every opportunity to challenge. “What we’ve been doing in our practice is using radical honesty and authenticity to help clients understand and open up the aperture to be more inclusive in the recruiting process. And we’re also advising them on how to ensure that the environment that people arrive in is consistent with the reality they are trying to create.”
Meanwhile, for those companies that are trying to be diverse, Marty pointed out that there is another mindset ‘trap’ to be avoided: “Organizations tend to choose where they feel more comfortable ‘being different’.” In other words, they become comfortable hiring individuals from one or two underrepresented groups yet fail to achieve a broader mix of diversity dimensions.
On the other hand, Conrad pointed out, “there is also this sort of ‘everybody’s diverse’ thing that’s happening.”
“I would agree, everyone is now in that conversation, because we are all unique, so that makes us diverse,” Marty offered, “But if you want to peel it back and say, 'Well, where do I get my biggest innovation and creativity?', then I would tell you that there are aspects of diversity that make the biggest difference. And that would be ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, marital status, physical ability, socio-economic status, religion, mental ability…to really drive the whole spectrum, you have to have those, what we might tend to call underrepresented groups or protected groups, in there. Otherwise, you're not going to bring as much innovation to a complex problem as you could get with all of those broader elements.”
“Diversity by itself doesn’t drive you to greater productivity,” Marty continued, “but diversity with inclusion does. And this means figuring out how to get that mix of people’s best thinking incorporated into solving a customer problem.”
And Conrad believed that figuring this out “really starts with our behavior as partners to our clients. If the Partners in our own firm don’t demonstrate inclusive behaviors, how can we authentically advise our clients on it?”
“To truly unlock the power that diversity and inclusion can offer your company”, Conrad continued, “you have to realize that it’s about how people with those identities see you and value you, and that you make the time to go and get to know these people, because then they’ll trust you to have their best interests at heart.”
As well as this moral imperative, there is also the reality that millennial and Gen Z employees will no longer entertain non-inclusive companies, and so investors are quickly becoming more passionate about the social issues that organizations are pursuing. In this sense, there is a strong business case alongside the moral one to really make your culture a welcoming and inclusive one. So how do employers begin to close this gap and unlock the power of inclusion their business?
“I might say just have the conversation,” Marty concluded, “and be okay that you don’t understand the topic. Be willing to see what you can learn and be vulnerable.”
Conrad agreed, “getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations is a huge step towards bridging into inclusive territory – knowing when to admit that you do not know everything simply opens up the opportunity for you to gain more knowledge and wisdom, and this is never wasted.”
Recently, Sue Johnson, Managing Partner for Inclusion & Diversity Consulting at Odgers Berndston, and OrgShakers’ Partner Therese Procter met to discuss the vital role diversity and inclusion (D&I) plays in helping UK workers navigate through challenging times.
“I think there’s a growing unrest at work that’s just bubbling under the surface,” Therese began, going on to highlight how workers are facing both a cost-of-living crisis and the need to adapt to changing ways of working after the pandemic. And while this has brought financial and mental wellness to the top of the overall leadership agenda, responsibility for addressing these complex needs is typically falling to the individual in an organisation that leads D&I strategies.
This continues a longstanding trend in D&I – scope creep – with a growing number of People issues being added to the discipline’s remit in many organisations, including workplace culture, human rights, supply chain governance, and community engagement.
On the one hand this is a positive development, as organisations become increasingly responsive to their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments. The challenge, however, is that the growing demands on D&I specialists are not being matched with the required resources.
“What you’re seeing is the job being expanded…the agenda is getting broader and broader,” Sue points out. However, the person who is responsible for responding to these D&I issues “are mostly reporting at a lower level… and to really make a change you have got to be able to have a seat at the executive table”.
Also critical is that today’s D&I specialists have the right blend of D&I expertise and wider organisational experience i.e.: they understand how the business ‘ticks’. Sue reflected that all too often in the past the people appointed to D&I roles had either “limited subject matter expertise but huge business experience … or came from HR with the subject matter expertise but lacked the wider business expertise required”.
Therese added that this is why “we are at a point in time where businesses need to reflect on current issues – and reset”. A D&I ‘reset’ that requires the appointment of individuals who, as well as having subject matter expertise and organisational know how, can also make things happen at pace and scale.
“You have to have such high emotional intelligence,” Sue agreed. “You need to be a good influencer, you need to be able to write strategy, and you need to be skilled in change management.”
“And the insights, the awareness, the training, the support, the helplines – the whole infrastructure has to be taken seriously,” Therese added. “That starts with the Board. If it’s not taken seriously and led from the top – and by the top – it will never get traction in the organisation.”
If the scope of the job is broadening, Sue and Therese concluded, then its importance increases by tenfold. And this means having an in-depth and contemporary understanding of all the corners of D&I, knowing how to respond and support employees accordingly – and then being able to win the support of senior leaders and stakeholders.
And aside from an employer’s moral obligation, there is clear financial gain from appointing a D&I specialist with this rare blend of skills. A workplace that is diverse and inclusive garners a higher revenue growth, has a greater readiness to innovate, and gains access to a wider talent pool. Research conducted by Great Place to Work also found that those who believed they would be treated fairly and included were 5.4 times more likely to want to remain at their company.
Adapting to this new normal when it comes to post-pandemic work has seen many new opportunities and challenges emerge in the working world, which is why it is more important than ever to be applying a central focus to your approach to D&I.
To discuss the ways in which the expanding D&I landscape is impacting your organisation, you can get in touch with us here.
Optimizing the performance of teams and individuals is one of the biggest challenges any leader faces. And it comes down to figuring out the approach that your people will best respond to. Rewarding overperformance? Punishing underperformance? Or a bit of both?
But which is the way to go?
The behaviourist B.F. Skinner’s operant learning theory argued that by adding a rewarding stimulus after a behaviour, that behaviour becomes reinforced and is therefore more likely to recur.
As a leader, if you make a conscious effort to reward those at work who are exhibiting your company’s values through the quality of their output, then this will likely lead to them repeating this effort because they begin to associate that standard of work with some sort of reward (and this can be anything from a monetary bonus, to an extra day of paid leave, to a ‘thank you’ note).
This positive reinforcement can have a knock-on effect – other colleagues will see that by working to a certain level, they too would be rewarded, and so will mimic this behaviour. This leads to a chain reaction of improved productivity and engagement. In theory at least.
In reality, there is a fine line that needs to be walked with this.
Although one study found that 92% of workers were more likely to repeat a specific action after receiving recognition for it – leaders must be careful not to promote the idea that working your fingers to the bone will get you rewards. This can lead to burnout in staff, as well as a noticeable downwards effect on their wellbeing, with productivity falling just as quickly as it had risen.
However, calibrated correctly, rewarding good behaviour can deliver a significant improvement in output, as well as staff that feel they are being appreciated for their efforts.
Skinner also created the concept of operant conditioning, which is essentially the opposite to operant learning theory and involves taking something good or desirable away to reduce the occurrence of a particular behaviour.
In corporate terms, this is most commonly translated as: if you are not meeting expectations, you will be at risk of losing your job. Some leaders opt to promote a widespread feeling of job insecurity in their workplace to foster this idea of competition and to stoke fears of job loss to motivate workers to be at the top of their game. Some commentators have suggested this is likely to be Elon Musk’s gameplan for Twitter where he has sacked half the workforce.
However, Harvard Business Review conducted a series of surveys to explore whether perceived job insecurity actually made people work better. What they found was that job insecurity drove a culture of presenteeism with workers going out of their way to look as productive as possible – but with the quality of the output waning. This is most likely due to the fact that feeling the need to always look busy can lead to stress build up and have increasingly detrimental effects on an employee’s health and performance.
But underperformance can have virus-like tendencies when unleashed in the workplace. If high-performance employees see that their low performance colleagues are not being reprimanded for putting little in, then this can lead to a domino-effect of high performers starting to work less hard because they do not want to pick up the slack of others around them. This mindset can spread like an infection amongst the office, and so it is extremely important for employers to manage those who are deemed low performers. But, the way you approach this requires a leader to be clear about what they need from this member of staff in order to help them improve – this list of top tips is a great place to start.
So, reward and punishment both have their pros and cons. The secret is knowing which to use in a given situation – and deploying them in a professional, purposeful way.
If you would like to explore more deeply the best ways to optimize the performance of your employees, you can get in touch with us here.
To help mitigate the risks of executive derailment in the early stages of executive integration, there are four strategies we recommend.
1. PLAN YOUR LANDING
You would not send a spaceship to Mars without carefully surveying the landing zone and deciding how and where you will enter the planet’s atmosphere. Likewise, before taking on a new role, a new executive should spend their precious upfront time observing and gathering as much data as possible about the business and its people. This data collection should start early during the recruitment and selection process.
Here are some tips to accomplish this:
• Do your Homework: Seek out what you can about the organization’s performance, future ambition, and strategic plans. But, more importantly, try to find out what competitors are saying and prepare a list of questions about how the strategy and values are reflected in everyday decisions.
• Connect the Dots: Talk to current and former employees to find out what has made people successful. Ask the CHRO or HR business partner to share the organization’s talent and succession plans.
• Decode the Culture: Ask for the latest employee engagement survey and dig into the key drivers of organization culture:
a. What language are people using to describe the organization’s culture, accomplishments, and business challenges;
b. What behaviors are tolerated, encouraged, or rewarded; and
c. What processes does the organization value above others (these might become part of your early wins or biggest source of frustration).
2. BE PROACTIVE IN BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
However well-suited you might be for the role you have stepped into, be prepared for the ambiguity that comes with a new mandate and untested relationships.
Building these critical relationships does not just happen accidentally – every new executive needs a plan to identify their stakeholders across the organization, in particular the less obvious ones whose names may not stick out but whose opinion is often sought-after by those in charge.
Over-investing in relationships involves a disciplined approach:
• Rehearse your story and how you want to introduce yourself, why you are here and what you are hoping to learn in these initial interactions – how you first show up will make a lasting impression
• Keep track of any promises you make, information you are missing, and your observations about each person you meet
• Write a fundamental question that shows you mean business. General McChrystal, the former commander of allied forces in Iraq, asked soldiers the same question: “If you couldn’t go home until this war is won, what should we do differently?”
3. DON’T WAIT FOR DIRECTION
Most executives are brought into new roles to create meaningful change. And, usually, they are greeted by a mountain of problems – some in the open and others hidden from view – that they need to tackle. Deciding which to tackle first and making a visible impact on the business is a critical early test of executive integration.
That test is doubly difficult for executives who have been promoted from an operational role and are eager to create a “to do” list rather than take in the big picture. Here, the trickiest part is giving up the temptation to work harder on operational challenges – something VPs are often good at doing – and learning to slow down.
As such, it’s not always wise to play the passive observer for the first 100 days or wait six months before laying out a change plan and making changes.
Susan Doniz, who took on the CIO role at Boeing during the Covid pandemic, has a practical roadmap for new executives: “In the first 30 days, develop your relationships and form a hypothesis. After 30 days, pick the lowest hanging fruit and fix it – fast.” She feels that the window to add value to the organization, executive team and the CEO begins to close after the first 60 days.
4. MAKE YOUR TEAM YOUR TEAM
The number one regret voiced by most executives is that they wish they acted more quickly to make changes to their team.
Making tough people decisions comes with the territory of taking on a new executive role. One CFO we interviewed acknowledged that “letting people go isn’t an easy thing to do,” and pushed off making a call on a few key individuals. “I let it linger, and it had a negative impact on my first year’s performance,” he reflected.
Most new executives need to set a hard one-year limit on getting their team in place. This removes doubt among their team and with their stakeholders. This also avoids the “drip down” effect of making waves of changes, which can create paranoia.
Tips to accelerate your people decisions as a new executive include:
• Quickly sense who is “on the bus” and who is not – trust your instincts
• Ask for stakeholder and peer input, and insist on candor
• Do not aim for perfection in the first 60 - 100 days – seek to improve what you have
• Give yourself a target date for when to have your team in place
Making it through the critical first year of an executive transition requires grit, leadership savvy and the ability to forget what made you successful in the past.
Making a successful transition requires taking a hard look at the leader you are, and the capabilities you need to develop to expand your leadership and succeed in your new role. Transitions can be a test of resilience, especially when you are promoted internally.
If you need coaching and guidance on how to make that transitional change into an executive role, get in touch with our team here.