Onboarding. Getting up to speed in your next position

Job-transitions and starting a new job have something in common: Getting up to speed quickly in an unknown environment.

Today an executiveís performance is being judged more quickly and harshly than ever. External candidates fail more often than internal candidates. Turnover rates for CEOs and accordingly other senior managers are surpassing record levels each year and the average time an executive stays with the same firm is steadily dropping. When executives are extended a job offer there is usually little doubt that they have the managerial and area specific skills required to perform well in their new roles. However, building effective relationships fast while distinguishing friends from enemies, getting access to the right information on time and showing the ability to achieve what is expected is increasingly difficult in today's narrowing time frame.

Executives often take too long to find out which relationships matter the most and how to best manage them. Who are the peers and key people that you need to perform well and the others that depend on you? Who are the people with the biggest influence over your bosses or the board? In other words, those with the power to promote or fire you. It is very important to know your supporters, but finding out who might have an interest in seeing you go over board is more urgent. What do you need to do when you find out that a peer has overlapping responsibilities with your new role? How would you handle somebody that wanted but didnít get your position? What will you do once you find out that you were not the dream candidate of some of your stakeholders?

If only there were a manual where you could read about the solutions to these predicaments. There isnít because every case is different and needs careful evaluation in order to choose the right strategy. Reading case studies in good books and articles can help you, but cannot substitute the value of an experienced advisor who has seen numerous cases.

At senior management levels the air gets thin and the isolation and pressure can easily lead to biased judgment. Neglecting important issues or spending too much time on minor ones can lead to poor bottom line results if not corrected in time.

If it were crystal clear what needs to be accomplished right from the beginning life would be easy for executives. But in most cases there is not enough clarity about the expected outcomes a newly hired executive is supposed to show and when. This is part of the risks associated with accepting a new position. While lack of clarity concerning what you're expected to deliver can make for a stumble it can also provide the opportunity to define clearer outcomes, obtain wide support and win. Again, there is no one size fits all solution. Claiming autonomy might be the best choice in one instance and the very worst in another.

Managing your direct reports requires time and leadership skills. Two of the most important skills are listening and goal setting. Subordinates feel dis-empowered and will increasingly disengage if you insist on knowing how to solve all their problems. Instead, listen to their ideas, concerns, opinions and solutions. You can always interfere and direct if necessary, but the more you empower the people who work for you the less you need to command the details and can focus on the future. A questioning culture leads to openness, inquisitiveness and cooperation. Managers who listen engender engagement from subordinates and support from their bosses. Managers who donít get this and display a know-it-all attitude lose the respect of their people and the support of their bosses.

All these fronts need your full attention. After starting in a new position youíll have to show results and fast. In order to accomplish that you need a solid network, support and engagement from all stakeholders involved. What you need is to set up a winning team.