Kevin Kelly, CEO of executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, lays out an alarming statistic for new executives when discussing the firm’s internal study of 20,000 searches:
“We’ve found that 40 percent of executives hired at the senior level are pushed out, fail or quit within 18 months. It’s expensive in terms of lost revenue. It’s expensive in terms of the individual’s hiring. It’s damaging to morale.”
What do these failed leaders not know or see? What don’t they do? Why can’t they deliver? Over the past eight years we’ve found that planning before day one on the job is one of the crucial factors that reduces the rate of failure from 40 percent to below 10 percent.
Day One is a critical pivot point for people joining from outside the company.
The same is true for the formal announcement of someone getting promoted or transferred from within.
In both situations, progress can be accelerated by getting a head start and hitting the ground running.
Preparation breeds confidence and a little early momentum goes a long way.
Five Steps to Take Between Acceptance of a Job and Start Date
The time between acceptance and start is a gift you can use to rest and relax, or to get a head start on your new role or next 100 days. Our experience has shown that those who use this “Fuzzy Front End” to put a plan in place, complete their pre-start preparation, and jump-start learning and relationships are far more likely to deliver better results faster than those who choose to rest and relax.
Here are five important steps to consider:
- 1) Identify the most important stakeholders up, across, and down - both inside and out
- 2) Plan your message, “Fuzzy Front End,” and first 100 days
- 3) Manage your personal setup so you have less to worry about after you start
- 4) Conduct pre-start meetings and phone calls to jump-start important relationships
- 5) Gather information and learning in advance to jump-start learning
It is hard to over-estimate the positive impact you can have on stakeholders and your future relationships by reaching out to them in advance, taking the time to learn about them, and opening yourself up by asking for help. MasterCard’s Ajay Banga did this well. He leveraged the time after he had been announced as CEO before he started by casually, but pointedly, interacting with key stakeholders with a simple introduction: “Hi, I’m Ajay. Tell me about yourself.”
The good news is that, more often than not, the key elements of the “Fuzzy Front End” can be addressed in relatively short order. Even so, strive to stretch out the time between acceptance and your start date and get as much done as you can. Adding days before your official start is one of the best ways to get more done during your first 100 days. This is the only opportunity you’ll ever have to create extra time and valuable white space before jumping into your new role.
Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others. Start by getting to know those “others” even before day one, then move on to managing your message and building the team.
George Bradt is managing director of executive onboarding and transition acceleration group PrimeGenesis, and co-author of “The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan” (Wiley, 2009). Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.