CEO On-boarding: Question #1

Which situations are the most likely to cause the worst on boarding problems?

How can the CEO (or hiring manager) identify these situations in time to take corrective action?

“Begin with the end in mind,” is an old planning adage, which is especially applicable to the on-boarding process.The first on boarding problem occurs prior to the new executive’s arrival and is caused by poor recruiting. Poor recruiting occurs for three basic reasons:

  • The recruiter does not know that he needs to look beyond the executive’s training, experience and technical knowledge. What is missing is determining if there is good fit between the executive and the organization and its values.
  • The recruiter often does not have a precise description for the kind of executive and the real requirements that the client is looking for or the results the executive should produce.
  • When the recruiter searches their database for candidates they are often not selective enough. The result: the recruiter may not select or present the best candidate for the job.

The second breakdown occurs during the selection process that follows the initial recruiting. There are usually two main breakdowns in the selection process following the initial interviews. The first breakdown occurs during the interviewing process, where the interviewer reviews a candidate’s experience in terms of activities, not results or deliverables. According to Lou Adler of The Adler Group and Carl Wellenstein of ExecGlobal candidates must be selected who can actually perform in your organization. Interviewing with a focus on outcomes, milestones and chronology will help you select a candidate who has proven she can meet your expectations.

The second breakdown in the selection process typically occurs due to a lack of objective data about the candidate, their talents and whether they are a good fit for the job. The necessary data are often impossible to obtain even by a good, quality interviewer. Marcus Buckingham, in his book First Break All the Rules, emphasizes the need to evaluate people’s talents (not just skills) and that possessing the required talents is critical for success. Correctly assessing a candidate’s talents using only interviews cannot produce an accurate talent assessment, even for experienced, savvy interviewers. Many candidates interview well, which further skews the evaluation process. The interview is no guarantee of effective future performance yet it is performance we must look for.

In order to discover talent, we strongly advocate the use of assessment tools to reveal a candidate’s mental horsepower, core behaviors, core motivators and how these attributes compare to others who have already succeeded in this role. Assessment tools provide additional in depth, objective and benchmarking data that permit us to make more informed decisions. We view the hiring process as a business process where having real, accurate and relevant data is instrumental to hiring success. The tool we favor is the Profile XT. See a brief description of the Profile from Smart Moves Consulting.

Finally, there is the on boarding process itself. Having a good recruiting and selection process sets up future success. Quality on boarding, though, is the final step in sealing the deal. The on boarding process is different from employee orientation, and while effective employee orientation is essential (as it covers where to park, how to dress, when and how much the employee will be paid, etc) employee orientation has nothing to do with productivity.

To ensure and accelerate productivity the new executive needs to understand the employment covenant and how to implement its agreements. What is this employment covenant? The employment covenant is essentially the initial key agreements that the new executive must make with his boss and team of peers to ensure success. It answers questions like: What do you expect of me? How do I work with you? How do we make decisions? What is not okay with you? How do you like to hear about bad information? Unless the new executive learns how to forge these agreements well and quickly he or she will not succeed.

The components of the covenant need to meet specific core corporate or business requirements; they are not always obvious or easily discernible. Sandy Sanderson, President of Meridian Executive Recruiting, an executive search firm, specializes in working with early stage companies. He says the ability of the executive team to work together either causes the organization to succeed or fail. Similar to joining a successful athletic team, the new team member must learn to fit in with the other team members. Once the covenants are solidified with the boss and team of peers, the next step for the new leader will be to facilitate developing a covenant with her/his team and its members. The final piece in successful on boarding is measuring executive effectiveness. In our experience, a new executive must focus on the following core activities during the first 90 days on the job:

  • Promoting yourself
  • Accelerating your learning
  • Matching your strategy to the situation
  • Securing early wins
  • Negotiating success
  • Achieving alignment
  • Building your team
  • Creating coalitions
  • Keeping your balance
  • Expediting everyone

(Source: Dr. Michael Watkins, Harvard Kennedy School of Government Executive Education program)

The hiring manager must support and encourage the new team member to spend her/his time on the most relevant executive activities.

The worst on boarding problems come from an inadequate employee talent evaluation and failure to treat the hiring process as a serious business process. The focus needs to be on the selection of a candidate who fits well with the organization. The most important component of success is: connection with the boss, peers and the new leader’s team; clarifying their collective covenants and then implementing agreed upon covenants.

The final component of on boarding business success is doing the right things, at the right time, in the right ways, especially during the first 90 days. With an effective on boarding process like this in place, the CEO is most likely to succeed in hiring the right executive, and to get the execution and results that the organization requires.


One Response to “CEO On-boarding: Question #1”

  1. Executive Onboarding and Coaching » CEO On-boarding Question #2 Says:

    […] Even those with good judgment and a good track record sometimes make bad hiring decisions. In our experience the best solution to bad hires and poor onboarding is problem prevention, not problem solving. The goal should be to manage the end to end hiring process well so well that you have fewer bad hires. The conclusion of our previous article (CEO On-boarding question #1) states: Do a better job with recruitment, selection and onboarding and make certain that all three pieces are integrated into one well defined and well managed business process. In this way you will enhance productivity and minimize bad hires. […]