Getting Quick Results From Executives You Recruit

You know the drill. An acquisition occurs and some executive changes may be needed. Generally speaking this decision was made before the deal was consummated. If changes are needed, a plan is in place, a search firm is retained, new hires occur and results are assumed. It often does not happen according to plan. Some executives fail. Valuable time is lost. Money, too.

Studies suggest that 40 to 50% of outside hired executives will not succeed in their new roles and that what happens in the first 90 days will often determine the ultimate success or failure of that executive. Michael Watkins at Harvard Business School, in his groundbreaking book, The First 90 Days, tells us that in a given year there will be a half million managerial changes in the Fortune 500 alone. Assuming that is the case, the failure rate he suggests is astounding. Something needed to be done to help newly hired executives succeed, which is the purpose for his book. The roadmap he outlines in his book is very valuable.

Most of the work is done after the new leader is on the job. For the most part the process is self-directed. That illustrates how ineffective most organizations are at quickly and correctly integrating their new leaders. Until recently, the best a new leader could expect would be an organized on-boarding program. They vary from company to company if they exist at all. What is needed is a highly structured, results-oriented, “pre-boarding” process that begins when an offer is accepted and culminates on the start date. It takes full advantage of the lag time between hiring and starting. Who has time to wait 90 days?

New Leader Integration (pre-boarding) is a process that was practiced in the military in the 1980s, redesigned and refined for the corporate world in the 1990’s, and introduced as the final step in the executive recruiting process in the 2000s. It is intense, fast, focused–and it works.

When included as part of an executive recruiting project, the process begins when the deal is done. A trained executive transition consultant facilitates the process from start to finish. The process involves the new leader’s boss (or the board), it includes insights from the new leader’s peers and the direct reports. The facilitator gathers a great deal of data through structured interviews with all stakeholders, documents his findings, writes a detailed analysis, provides that report to new leader, and meets with that individual for a day to fully debrief the information gathered.

The process culminates the morning of the start date with a facilitated meeting that the new leader has with all of the direct reports. By noon the team is coalescing, top issues and “must happens” are addressed upfront and problems are being addressed. There is minimal downtime. The new leader has a three-dimensional view of the job, knows what to do, in what order, and what landmines to avoid. By the end of the first week the new leader has had a one-on-one meeting with all participants in the process and uses the blueprint that was developed and briefed as a basis for focused, results-oriented discussions with the stakeholders. If on-boarding programs are already in place they augment the New Leader Integration process rather than replace it.

The result of the process is a new executive who has been provided every possible advantage ahead of the start date to ensure that he hits the ground running, doing the right things, getting the right results and avoiding mistakes. It is an efficient process that maximizes the lag time between hiring and starting. Everybody wins.