There's nothing like that feeling of hiring a key executive for your leadership team. You go through weeks or months of résumé reviews, phone interviews, panel interviews, and perhaps even an assessment center or two. Your team aligns on the preferred candidate, and the references check out. You feel good about your choice and excited about the impact they'll have on your team.
It seems like you've done the hard work. The reality is, however, that the work is just beginning. What happens between choosing the right candidate and when they reach the 180-day mark is just as, if not more, critical to their long-term success as having a robust hiring process.
There are myriad reasons why a new executive doesn't work out, but they almost always boil down to one thing: a mismatch between the expectations of the candidate and the reality of how things played out.
The best thing you can do to close that gap is to help your new executive navigate the early stages of their relationships with the key people in the organization. Those early interactions have a profound and lasting impact on the long-term success of the new role and are the most challenging areas to course-correct if things go south.
Here are the three key relationships you should help your new executive navigate in the first few weeks.
There are three key things you should discuss with a new hire. The first is setting goals for them for the first 90 days. These goals should center on getting them up to speed with the organization, their role, and the key people. The clearer you can be on the specific activities they should undertake, the better.
The second is to agree on your meeting cadence. Determine how often and for how long you should meet over those first 90 days. You'll likely want to meet more regularly for shorter periods initially and then adjust those as you both get comfortable with the rhythm.
The final thing to agree on is your communication protocol. This should cover two areas: your preferred means of communication for different topics and priority and your communication style. You want to get your new hire familiar with the best way to communicate with you and how to interpret what you say.
Now that your new hire has become part of your leadership team, you want to help them understand their role in the context of that team.
There are three discussions you can help them have. The first is with their internal customer. Almost every senior leader in every organization has at least one internal customer: that person, function, or division they have to serve in order to serve your external customer better. Help them identify their peer, or peers, who represents their internal customer, and encourage them to meet in a collaborative way to determine how they can best serve each other.
The second two discussions should come at your next team meeting. Have the team share what decisions they are responsible for collectively as a group and how they make decisions. Giving clarity on both these aspects will help orient your new leader in how they relate to their team.
Their direct reports
This is often where your new leader can run afoul. They come in hot and heavy to bring all their past expertise to their new role and transform how things are done, only to be met with resistance. That resistance turns to obstinacy, which turns to frustration.
Here are three areas you can help your new leader explore with their people. First, have them ask their team what their three top priorities are for the next three months and what they think their most significant obstacles are to achieve those.
Second, have them share their expectation of a timeline for process evaluation and change. Assuming that you've given your new hire the remit to set and achieve ambitious goals in their department, at some point they'll want to look for inefficiencies and to realign their team around their intended direction. One of the most powerful things a leader can do is to let their team know when they can expect the discussions around those changes to begin.
Last, have your new executive share with their team the best way to provide feedback on any concerns about their working relationship or the team's direction. Opening the doors to transparent communication will do wonders for building a strong relationship off the bat.