Many companies still devote less time and focus to helping new leaders succeed. If you have a new manager coming in soon, the best way to offer your support is to guide them through the learning curve. In this piece, the authors offer practical recommendations on how to help your new manager learn about the organization, the team, and the culture.
You just found out that you will soon have a new manager. What can you do to help your new leader launch successfully? You can help your new leader (and yourself) by actively onboarding them.
According to RESEARCH REVEALS from Egon Zehnder, there are three main reasons why the onboarding leaders derail: 1) They fail to understand how the organization works; 2) They don’t fit the culture of the organization; and 3) They struggle to form alliances with peers. Our research shows that promoting from within does not eliminate these onboarding challenges. The leaders we surveyed said that internal promotions are 70% as difficult as coming in from the outside.
So, whether your new leader is an internal or external hire, they need your support. And the best way to offer your support is to guide them through the learning curve. Doing so means first assessing what they most need to learn and then helping them understand how to accelerate their learning process. Here are our recommendations on how to take both of these steps along with real-world examples from the leaders we surveyed.
Find out what your new manager needs to know the most.
There are three basic types of learning when starting a new role: technical, cultural, and political.
- Technical learning about understanding what it takes to succeed at work. This includes learning about customers, products, technologies, and systems, as well as facilitating the details of organizational roles, goals, capabilities, KPIs, and performance.
- Cultural learning about understanding the key rules of conduct that govern “how we do things here” as well as how to speak the local language (eg, acronyms).
- Learn politics about understanding how decisions are made and how power and influence work, as well as identifying key stakeholders and explaining decision-making processes.
Where you focus your attention depends a lot on the situation. If your new manager has been promoted from within, they may already understand many aspects of the culture (although there are important cultural nuances associated with moving to a higher level). Therefore, the focus is likely to be more on technical learning (about aspects of the organization that they are not familiar with) and political learning (about how different power and influence work at the new level) .
If your new manager comes from a competitor, they will likely be familiar with the important technical aspects of the job, such as knowledge of products, markets, and technology. So learning about culture and politics can be their biggest priority.
Help them understand how to accelerate their learning process.
Here you’ll find the three types of learning we talked about earlier along with questions to ask yourself so you know exactly what your new manager needs.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What can I give our new leader to get them up to speed on our customers, products, systems, etc.?
- What important reports or product information would be helpful?
- What data will give them a solid understanding of the current state?
- What historical data will provide insights into today’s priorities?
“I know the new VP will need access to organizational charts, financials, and marketing plans. However, knowing how to access this information on our intranet can be difficult,” said one of the leaders we surveyed. “To support our new manager, we created documents with links that helped our VP easily access the information he needed.”
“Being part of a large, global organization, there is a lot of data,” said one team member. “When our new CHRO came on board, the team identified the most important historical information and shared our key success metrics. We also had the talent, culture, and leadership data that helped our new leader to better understand his team. He was grateful for the information and found it facilitated his acclimation.”
Questions to ask yourself:
- What are the unwritten rules that help someone new to our company?
- What insights into decision-making, collaboration, and cooperation can help a person integrate more quickly?
- What are the specific cultural expectations or landmines the future leader needs to be aware of?
- What acronyms are common in our company?
For a new executive, understanding the cultural and ethical expectations of business reviews allows the leader to do a lot of preparation before important meetings. “When I took on the new role, one of my colleagues sat me down and said that I would get a lot of questions about finance and that the expectation was that I knew the numbers cold. As an engineer, that means spending a lot of time to understand the current financial and the reasons behind it. It takes a lot of effort, but this advice is helpful for my success in the paper.
A leader joins a consumer packaged goods company with a long and rich history. In retrospect, he realized the difficulty of navigating the culture. “When giving a PowerPoint, the expectation is that the company’s brand colors are used in a particular way,” he recalls. “However, they did not share that with me. After presenting a proposal without using these colors, another leader told me that it damaged my credibility. Even though it was an easy transition, I was hurt not knowing it from the beginning. “
Questions to ask yourself:
- Who are the key stakeholders the new leader will need to meet soon, and is there anything I can share about them that would be helpful for the new leader to know?
- Who are the key partners the new manager should work with to pursue strategic initiatives?
- Who are the external partners who work closely with this group?
- What is the suggested cadence for meeting with peers, stakeholders, and partners?
For a leader, learning about the preferences of the company president is very helpful. “When I started on this team, someone pulled me aside and said that the leader was an absolute stickler for starting meetings on time. He looked at being five minutes ahead as being in hour and those who arrived late. He did not allow anyone to come in after the meeting had started. It helped me a lot to have that insight.”
“I have been with my global organization for more than a decade,” said an official. “While I was happy to get a promotion at corporate headquarters, because I’m from Europe, I don’t have the network, knowledge, or understanding of how this part of the business works. While everyone thinks I don’t need support in my new role, that’s not true. I need help with onboarding, too. My coach helped me identify the internal relationships I needed to build for success within the corporate environment.
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In summary, many companies still devote little time and focus to helping new leaders succeed. If you have a new manager coming in soon, identify how you can help them quickly learn about the organization, team, and culture.
New leaders drink from a proverbial fire hose. Landing in a new role can be difficult. Offering help, checking in, keeping them in the loop, and offering a listening ear can go a long way toward helping someone who is working to learn and trying to improve at the same time.