Career advancement is not without risk -- at least not for executives who move from one organization to another.
Like ironworkers building skyscrapers hundreds of feet above the ground, newly hired executives often have high-risk jobs. Many are recruited as “change agents” to infuse vitality into moribund organizations. Others are hired to lead start-up or turnaround situations, or to manage mergers and acquisitions.
Studies have shown that upwards of 40% of such hired executives fail in their first year and a half on the job. They either perform significantly below expectations, resign voluntarily or are terminated for performance.
In many cases, the hiring corporations themselves contribute to executive failure. They recruit the wrong people, are unclear about their expectations for executive success, fail to give honest feedback, make inadequate assumptions about cultural fit, and have no formal process to assimilate new hires into their organization.
Even the most competent executive would find it challenging to succeed against this backdrop. Too often, however, newly hired managers compromise their chances for success by making one or more of the following major mistakes:
They don’t build the right relationships. One of the most important steps when joining a new organization is to win support from those whose opinions and actions will be instrumental to your success. This cuts across all organizational levels as well as to people outside of the organization, from directors on down. Newly hired executives also need to spend sufficient time with their staff to gauge both their strengths and their support. It doesn’t help anyone to appear to be aloof, impersonal, all-knowing, superficial, or disingenuous.
They don’t focus their efforts carefully. There’s a lot to be said to securing quick and significant wins. I’ve seen too many executives fail because they get caught up in activities that will not have a strong and visible impact on the organization. These executives also fail to develop short- and long-term strategies with specific goals that they can execute and attain. They try to accomplish too many projects at one time, and wind up getting distracted by people or issues that will not support them or their goals.
They make (the wrong) assumptions. In today’s fast-changing business climate, it’s risky to assume anything about a new organization. Executives should not assume that what has worked for them before will work for them in a new corporate culture. Expectations, processes and politics for getting things done vary greatly from one organization to the next. It pays to clarify expectations, deliverables and metrics; regularly check for others’ reactions or opinions to proposals; and actively seek feedback.
Successful executives are able to turn ideas into action and achieve results. They are interpersonally and politically astute, and use the information they gather to make informed judgments and decisions.
Over the next few issues, we will explore how executives can successfully integrate into new organizations by focusing on their relationships with their manager, team and stakeholders.