This week is my 6th week in the role of Psychologist with the Centre for Leadership Advantage and I can’t believe how fast time has gone. My first 6 weeks here have been filled with new experiences and learnings. I have had the pleasure of working with the CLA team on some great projects which has made my first few weeks smooth and energising.
Before I started this role I set myself 3 very simple goals for my first month.
- Fit in
- Add value
Reflecting on my experience at CLA so far there have been some things about my onboarding experience which has helped me achieve these goals. Prior to starting at CLA I had already worked with 3 people in the team which made the experience more seamless. During my Master degree I had the pleasure of working with Marcele De Sanctis, Terry Coyne and Rearn Norman as a placement student. Being familiar with the team made it easier to integrate. I started at the beginning of the new financial year so being able to attend the end of financial year dinner in my first week allowed me to spend time with the team outside of work and get to know the team better. Another thing that helped was keeping the lines of communication open before I started and touching base a couple of times in the lead up to my first day.
I looked for opportunities where I could draw on my experience from my previous role and relate it back to projects, whether that be with clients or internal initiatives. What helped was being given the encouragement to get involved. This in turn motivated and enabled me to deliver value on pieces of work.
Integrating into a new organisation can depend on a number of different factors that either make it successful or challenging. Coincidently, the Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) edition the month I started had a very insightful article on onboarding (‘New Leaders Need More Than Onboarding’ HBR May-June, 2017). This article focused on onboarding and integrating new executives/employees. While I am not an executive (yet!), I thought the insights pertinent to my experience. You would be surprised to know that many businesses rate themselves as performing well on bringing newly hired executives onboard. Of course, businesses are relatively competent at the administrative basics (make sure the new hire has a computer, set up a meeting with HR, pointing out all the best local coffee spots, etc). There is a difference between onboarding the ‘big things’ and the ‘little things’. While the ‘little things’ are very important it is often the ‘big things’ that aren’t done as well. According to a global survey of 588 senior executives who had recently transitioned into new roles, a poor grasp of how the organisation works and poor cultural fit were the primary reasons for failures (‘New Leaders Need More Than Onboarding’ HBR May-June, 2017).
This HBR article identified 5 key tasks that executives/leaders must undertake in their first few critical months to ensure integration. Not being in an executive or a leadership position I thought I would share my insights on how these can relate to both leaders and non-leaders given my recent experience starting in a new role.
- Assuming operational leadership
Leaders: A new leader builds their credibility by demonstrating awareness of important operational issues, swiftly solving urgent problems, and identifying and achieving quick wins.
Non-leaders: Staying up to date with the industry and using this knowledge to add value. Supporting leaders in solving problems.
2.Taking charge of the team
Leaders: Focusing on team member performance and development. Understand who the roles in the team. Create a safe environment to give timely, constructive feedback.
Non-leaders: Spend time getting to know other people in your team and your manager – understand what interests them, motivates them and what you can learn from them. Create a safe environment for a two way feedback loop.
3. Aligning with your stakeholders
Leaders: Identify the most important stakeholders outside their teams. Develop a plan for how and when to connect with people. Learn how decision making works in the organisation and who has influence over it.
Non-leaders: Aligning with stakeholders happens at any level of an organisation. Identify important stakeholders in your role and plan to connect with people.
4. Engaging with the culture
Leaders: Get up to speed on the values, norms, and guiding assumptions that define acceptable behaviour in the new organisation. Leaders walk a fine line between working within the culture and seeking to change it.
Non-leaders: Get up to speed on the values, norms, and guiding assumptions that define acceptable behaviour in the new organisation is key at every level and every role. These are relatively the same.
5. Defining strategic intent
Leaders: New leader must start to shape strategy. Be clear about the path ahead.
Non-leader: Understand the strategy of the organisation and how your role aligns.
So, how does all of this relate back to my onboarding experience and my 3 goals? Well, by taking steps to understand operations, culture and strategy I can ‘add value’ which then links to my ability to ‘deliver’ work. By making an effort to get to know and understand the team I work with and stakeholders, I was able to ‘fit in’ easier and build relationships. This is something I will continue to work on during my time at CLA.
Onboarding and integration is a work in progress. Organisations and individuals taking steps to ensure a smooth transition in the first few months can help them walk out of work feeling engaged rather than uncertain about their new role.