C-suite executives are failing, according to a study by Harvard Business Review that analyzed failure rates of C-suite executives over a 10-year span. In fact, the failure rate is as high as 56 to 75 percent, depending on the executive’s position. The numbers are surprising, but the symptoms of high failure rate are easily diagnosed. Let’s examine a few common themes, and then review executive onboarding as a remedy.
Where Onboarding Goes Wrong
While it’s a celebratory moment when a C-suite executive accepts an offer, the hiring enterprise typically moves on to other matters quickly. Granted, companies will normally employ an onboarding process when the executive walks in the door the first day, but such onboarding is generally limited to HR compliance – required paperwork, office tours, shaking hands, a welcome lunch and more paperwork. Thereafter, the new executive becomes an island, having to fend for themselves. Does this sound familiar?
As the incoming executive is trying to get up to speed by learning to avoid cultural potholes, uncovering any unknown skeletons in the closet, and dealing with a new set of constituents, peers and subordinates are simultaneously researching the executive and developing their own impressions, much to the disadvantage of the new hire.
“Executives who focus on understanding the organizational culture, get crystal clear about delivering on their initial performance expectations, and solicit regular feedback succeed,” said Rania Anderson, an independent executive business coach and author, who has successfully onboarded executives… “Getting off on the wrong foot is usually irreversible.”
The Argument for Outside Coaching
Smart and progressive organizations are attempting to maximize recruitment ROI and decrease failure rates by engaging the services of third-party executive coaches for onboarding purposes. Although organizations can do this activity independently, corporate correctness or office politics may impede the process. Consider the following advantages of using an experienced executive coach in the onboarding process:
- Relationship development – A third-party coach can serve as an objective observer to keep the executive focused on establishing initial and long-lasting relationships with all constituents within the organization. Sometimes, the executive may not fully comprehend formal and informal relationships of prominence due to their short time with the new organization. An executive coach will be able to identify early naysayers, spot ways to combat related challenges, and ensure every group within the organization is considered.
- Plan development – New executives may bite off more than they can chew and accomplish in a systematic manner, thinking they need to be the “savior” in their recently acquired role. An executive coach can help the individual prioritize and plan. Proper alignment of priorities between the executive, his/her boss and potential board members is extremely important. Allowing the coach reasonable and appropriate access to all parties is paramount to achieving mutually desirable results.
- Communication linkages – Coaching can improve the predictability of short- and long-term success by helping the new executive craft communication linkages. Keeping in mind today’s multi-generational workforce, a coach can advise the executive on the best communication method for each individual and group – some employees might respond better to one-on-one or face-to-face communication, while others may prefer group meetings or communication via email or social media.
Although a boss, top corporate HR leader and other vested colleagues can help a new executive navigate the treacherous waters of onboarding, they all have day jobs. Investing in third-party executive coaching to guide the onboarding process is worth every penny.
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