Here is a brief excerpt from a leadership column posted by George Bradt at the Forbes magazine website. To check out a wealth of free materials, learn more about George and his firm, and sign up for email alerts, please click here.
About 40% of executives who change jobs or get promoted fail in the first 18 months.” As Anne Fisher points out in a recent Fortune article, this has been true for about 15 years.
A big reason for the ongoing failure rate is the inability of executives to determine the right time to pivot from converging (becoming part of the team) to evolving (initiating change) when they are onboarding, changing jobs or getting promoted – and the inability of others to help them get this timing right.
Let’s unpack that into three musts for executives:
1. Must adopt a converge and evolve approach to onboarding
2. Must make a conscious choice about pivoting from converging to evolving
3. Must time that pivot right
Must Converge and Evolve
We use an ACES approach to onboarding, in which leaders make a choice based on the business context and corporate culture of the company whether to Assimilate in, Converge and Evolve, or Shock a system by making immediate changes.
Understand that while there are certainly some situations where it’s right to shock a system or simply assimilate in, in the vast majority of cases, converging and evolving is the right approach. New leaders cannot lead until they have established a working relationship with their followers.
Hence, converge and evolve. Ajay Banga did this particularly well when he went into MasterCard.
Must Choose to Pivot
Converging and evolving are different. The activities are different. The skills utilized are different. This is why a new leader can’t do both at the same time. This is why it’s so important to have a clear pivot point between asking/converging and leading/evolving.
QlikTech’s Lars Bjork used his first annual meeting to do this, and it worked so well that he pulls his whole company together every year to pivot from the learnings of the year before to the priorities of the year ahead.
This is a critical part of step 2 of The New Leader’s Playbook: Engage the Culture and Your New Colleagues in the Right Context
Be careful about how you engage with the organization’s existing business context and culture. Crossing the need for change based on the context and the cultural readiness for change can help you decide whether to Assimilate, Converge and Evolve (fast or slow), or Shock.
Please click here to read about each step in the playbook.
Please click here for YouTube videos highlighting each step.
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To read the complete article, please click here.
The New Leader’s Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months.
George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director, and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, 3rd edition 2011) and the freemium iPad app New Leader Smart Tools. Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.
To read my interview of George, please click here.
To read my review of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, please click here.
George B. Bradt has a unique perspective on transformational leadership based on his combined senior line management and consulting experience. He progressed through sales, marketing and general management roles around the world at companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and J.D. Power’s Power Information Network spin off as chief executive. Now he is a Principal of CEO Connection and Managing Director of PrimeGenesis, the leading global executive onboarding and transition acceleration group he founded in 2002. George is a graduate of Harvard and Wharton (MBA), author of three books published by John Wiley & Sons: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (now out in 3rd edition), Onboarding, and The Total Onboarding Program, as well as of The New Leader Smart Tools iPad app, as well as a weekly column for Forbes.com, “The New Leader’s Playbook,” and the musical “Twitter Pi.”
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Morris: Before discussing your books, a few general questions. First, which person has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? Please explain.
Bradt: Got to be my wife, Meg. She is so strong in areas that I’m so weak in that she has helped me to see the value of opposing views and attitudes on a continuous basis over the past 35+ years. Not that I’ve adopted her views and attitudes, and not that I’ve tried to become strong in the areas that she’s strong in, just that knowing and understanding those things has helped me develop into who I am.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development?
Bradt: I’m blessed to have the ability to take things in from a wide variety of sources. I’ve learned bits and pieces from the people I’ve worked for, worked with, and had work for me, from suppliers, from customers, from teachers, and thought leaders. I am the sum total of all these bits and pieces.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Bradt: At age 23 I took over a sales unit from my former boss. He was a dramatically better salesman than I was so I knew I couldn’t cycle his numbers by outselling him. I chose to out manage him.
I gave one of my key accounts to each of my four strongest salespeople and spent the next six months training them.
• Month 1: They came with me on the key account calls and didn’t do or say anything.
• Month 2: I let them do the paper work after the call.
• Month 3: I let them prepare the presentation – which I gave.
• Month 4: I let them give the presentation – but not answer any questions.
• Month 5: I let them give the presentation and answer the questions – with me there as back up
• Month 6: I had them meet me before the call, take me through their presentation, explain how they were going to answer questions.
Then I let them make the sales call while I waited outside.
Then we debriefed immediately after that
Then, I took a one-week vacation and went to a one week sales management meeting. When I came back, these guys were 150 percent of the month’s target – through two weeks. They knew what to do and owned their results.
It changed me. I know the leverage of a team vs. an individual. Since then, I’ve always put my first, best efforts into developing others and building the team.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education proven invaluable to what you have achieved thus far?
Bradt: I look good on paper and that gives me some credibility. Many of my best friends and business colleagues are people I met either at school or through post-school networking groups.
The real value is in the basics. My elementary school, St. Bernard’s, is remarkable. Had the most extraordinary teachers and students. Anyone that spent more than a few years there has a discipline around the use of words that is rare in the world. That was my foundation that allowed me to get the most out of Choate, Winchester, Harvard, and Wharton – though some of those were pretty good too!
Morris: What do you know now about business that you wish you knew when you left the classroom to begin a full-time job?
1) Defining your own win. Must, must, must define your own professional and personal goals – and understand the trade-off choices you are going to make across those two. Everyone is different. Everyone needs to understand what’s really important to them and what’s not.
2) The importance of a long-term view. It’s very hard to look way down the road at age 22. There’s so much power in thinking about what you want to be later on and what knowledge and skills you choose to acquire to get there. Steve Jobs says you can only connect the dots backwards. I buy that. But you can make choices about which dots you want to put on the paper.
3) The applicability of where to play/how to win my own career. One of the most important choices people make is which industry to play in and then which company to play in within that industry. Choose wisely and the rising tide helps. Choose less wisely and your fighting the trend the whole way. The second part of that is choosing how you’re going to differentiate yourself to win within your industry.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
George Bradt cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
 Bradt, George, and Vonnegut, Mary, 2009. Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
 Attributed to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, 1521, when asked to recant his earlier writings.
 Neilson, Martin, and Powers, “The Secrets to Successful Strategy Execution,” Harvard Business Review (June 2008):
Here is an article written by George Bradt for the “Talent Management Perspectives” series featured online by Talent Management magazine (March 2011). To check out all the website’s resources and sign up for a free subscription to TM and/or Chief Learning Officer magazine, please click here.
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Your company is celebrating a great new hire – someone whose skills, experience and reputation precede him.
Now what? No one had fully expected him to say yes. No one was exactly sure what his responsibilities should be.
Now it’s time to figure that out. But now is way too late.
It’s not just about landing the best candidate. Part of hiring and onboarding employees is strategic planning. Attention must be paid to onboarding new employees so that they can deliver results that move the organization forward in line with its purpose and priorities.
To that end, here are some guidelines for talent leaders to bear in mind:
Start by stopping. Onboarding begins with business objectives. Start by getting managers to stop and figure out what they want to accomplish and how they expect their future new employees to deliver or contribute to target results.
Think business strategy. The company risks leaving a lot on the table if the people doing the hiring treat it as a transactional event as opposed to a strategic opportunity.
Here are three common phrases hiring managers should never accept without following up:
• “Just fill the position.” Hang on. Will the positions as defined deliver the results the managers need? If not, this is a great time to push them to re-craft the jobs to further their business strategies.
• “Find me the best candidate.” The best at what, precisely? Do they need the best skill set, or will the individual’s inherent behaviors and motivators be more important to delivery of business results than skills and experience?
Push senior leadership hard to complete their thinking before implementing anything, even a broad search initiative.
• “I know what I need…” They may know what they need, but do they know what their stakeholders and their new employees’ stakeholders need? Without stakeholder alignment, they will never make the right hire because their new employees — no matter how great they are — will be burdened with incompatible expectations.
Onboarding is a strategic exercise in that it’s about building capabilities and capacity for the future. Thus no one can begin to recruit anyone until they understand how the new recruit’s role is going to help deliver results.
Clarify purpose and priorities. Begin with the organization’s general purpose and main priorities. That’s the big picture destination. Next, drill down to the specific destination for this onboarding. When managers onboard new employees, they are implementing strategies to achieve business objectives and should therefore treat new employee onboarding as they would any other investment. Define the business objective: Did they hire to replace, change the culture or add capabilities? What is their expected return on investment? How will they measure their return?
Check onboarding track record. Look back at any given manager’s onboarding track record to make sure he or she retains the tactics that proved successful in the past and work to enhance areas that need improvement.
Make sure everyone follows through. Push managers to lay out their messages so everyone understands purpose, priorities, responsibilities, required strengths and organizational values.
Managers oftentimes communicate with candidates more than they expect to during recruiting, interviewing and every subsequent step of onboarding. Intentional and inadvertent actions and inactions leave candidates or new hires with strong impressions, which is why it’s important for everyone to be on the same page – from before.
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After his education at Harvard and Wharton, George Bradt progressed through sales, marketing and general management roles around the world at Fortune 500 companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and then J.D. Power and Associates as chief executive of its Power Information Network spin off. Today, he is managing director of PrimeGenesis, a consultancy focused on transition acceleration and executive onboarding. He is the author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results as well as the co-author of Onboarding: How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.