For many leaders, starting a new job means jumping in feet first. In their article “How to Succeed Quickly in a New Role,” published in the Harvard Business Review, Rob Cross, Greg Pryor, and David Sylvester share the secrets to success for new managers.
For starters, the statistics from Gartner and McKinsey (cited by the authors) still hold true: 49 percent of both internally and externally recruited executives are underperforming after 18 months. Equally disappointing is the fact that 27–46 percent of promotions or transitions are regarded as failures two years later. What can you do to beat the odds?
In a study conducted with a hundred companies of various sizes and across various industries, the authors found that the most successful leaders are those who quickly build a strong network of contacts, making networking a standout skill.
Demands for collaboration are rising in organizations
In today’s organizations, we know two things: organizations are evolving very rapidly and every single person has conscious biases. This makes ideation and collaboration essential to the success of individuals and organizations. According to Cross, Pryor, and Sylvester, more and more leaders are coming to terms with this reality. Meanwhile, employees say that they are experiencing a greater need to collaborate and coordinate to complete their work.
Quickly identify the informal networks
The ability to build and maintain connections and to actively navigate networks is the key to success for anyone in a new management position. In fact, creating connections quickly with key players in the organization seems to be both an obsession and a talent among those who excel at onboarding. One interaction at a time, they discover the official and unwritten rules by asking who the opinion leaders are, who does everybody follows, who makes the decisions, etc. These knowledge-thirsty individuals quickly carve out and solidify their place.
Generate pull by showing interest in others
Asking questions to better understand others and showing genuine curiosity about them improves communication, makes it easier to learn, and encourages people to express their opinions. When onboarding, leaders are better off showing interest than trying to cast themselves in a better light.
Use your new network wisely: think together
By developing their network this way, managers can get things done quickly, run fresh ideas by their new colleagues, identify keys to success for certain initiatives and, if necessary, get their approval.
Also new: seek complementarity
Since nobody has all the skills required for a new position, leaders who are aware of their weaknesses and vulnerabilities will be wise to seek out and enjoy the company of people who seem more talented than them. It’s not about taking advantage but rather joining forces with others to reflect, improve, and build.
Suboptimal onboarding programs
Fast movers have a strategy, are intentional, and reap the benefits early on. The sincerity of their intentions is recognized by their teams, colleagues, and managers; it’s a win-win.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of onboarding programs offered by companies overlook these winning approaches and do not offer incentives to encourage new executives to quickly build their network and seek out the complementary talents in their professional environment.
Not everyone has a knack for networking
Building relationships and networking are skills that can be developed and can even become an area of excellence. Since it makes a significant difference in the success and impact of newly appointed executives, organizations are wise to support them in this area. The search for their complementarities can also be facilitated and accelerated. It’s easy as 1-2-3.
Onboarding coaching is an excellent way to accelerate the acquisition and development of interpersonal skills. It helps new recruits, individually or in groups, face new challenges, build their network independently, and seek complementarities that will benefit everyone. By providing your managers with the support they need to transition successfully, your organization will beat the odds and create lasting collaborations and exchanges of ideas.