OnBoarding as Risk Management

One of the paradoxes for New Leaders is that companies hire people in whom they have confidence; and because they trust their abilities, do nothing to support onboarding transitions. What they may fail to recognize is that every leader transition comes with inherent risk.

Over the years, our clients have found increasing value in treating leader onboarding as a risk management process. Some of the risks inherent in the transition are about the Leader -- such as a personal relocation, or coming from a different industry. Others are inherent in the organization and the role itself -- such as conflicting expectations for leader performance, or the presence of a rival for the role. Whatever the genesis, the risks present threats to New Leader effectiveness.

Our client research has indicated that while some risk factors may weigh more heavily than others, the sheer number of risk factors is in itself a strong predictor of longevity or derailment (and turnover). The greater the number of risks, the more problematic the transition.

So why don't Hiring Managers and their organizations do something about it? Companies may resist a risk management focus for a number of reasons:

  • A lack of awareness of the risks, or the role these risk factors play in New Leader success (or failure).
  • They may have obscured some of the risk during the recruiting process in order to attract the very best talent available (and do not wish to acknowledge it post-hire).
  • They may have (legitimate) concerns about highlighting multiple risk factors post-hire, worrying that focusing on risk can increase anxiety and make New Leaders self-conscious in an unhelpful way.
  • They may see identifying risk (and taking steps to mitigate it) as a "vote of no confidence" in the New Leader, suggesting that someone who needs transition support is "damaged goods."

At Leader OnBoarding we see best practice as identifying risks up-front, and then mitigating risk throughout an onboarding coaching engagement -- as a conscious set of acts, with use of appropriate tools, and done with the support of the Hiring Manager and HR Partner. And that starts before the New Leader's first day in role.

While there may be some risks that need to be pointed out to and worked through with the New Leader, it is important to remember to respect the New Leader's emotional state and minimize their own anxiety. Plowing headlong into repeated risk management discussions is akin to telling a golfer to "not hit your tee shot into the water hazard" (which, of course, greatly increases the likelihood of putting the ball into the water).

Our jobs as coaches and advisors to senior leadership are about helping them confidently weather the challenges they face, providing support and tools to foster faster, more effective transitions. And at the core of that process is the identification, and mitigation, of the risk factors* that threaten or slow their success.

*Please be in touch at [email protected] if you would like to learn more about treating leader onboarding as a risk management process.

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Posted in Mitigating the Risk of New Leader Transition, OnBoarding as Risk Management.