Why Star Performers Fail Their First Year: 4 Tips for Success

Posted by Andrea Hopke on Thu, Sep 19, 2013

Why is it when a super star leader is lured away from one company to the next, more often than not their performance suffers the first year?

cc_new_leader_onboardingIn his recent book, Give and Take, Adam Grant tracks the research that teases apart the quantifiable impact of such a move. What is it about the knowledge these workers have that isn't immediately transferable? Or is it more of a case of adjusting to a new culture? Is there something the individual can do or the company can do to mitigate the negative impact of the move?

We care about the research because we see a many of our clients grapple with this performance and productivity challenge when they've hired brilliant new leaders.

Dr. Grant summarizes research that points to this conclusion:
* Our productivity is directly related to the processes and places we are used to working within. He points to a study of surgeons who work in different hospitals. Regardless of the number of times they do the same procedure, it's the continuity of location and staff that positively correlate with best results.

When we change the environment, we become disoriented, as it were. And it takes us, even as smart and brilliant as we are, time to catch on, to find our natural pace and recreate our support teams and resources. Which raises the second point from Grant's research synthesis:
* Looking at the field of financial analysis, "star analysts did maintain their success ... if they moved with their teams."
Which points to the imperative that new leader onboarding, the process of orienting new hires into the culture and company, should incorporate team development sooner rather than later. Not just the forms and software they need to know to get by, but the establishment of relationships that will foster shared learning and insights about the best ways to get things done AND new ways that may improve how we do things.

4 Tips for How to Help Your New Star Leaders Succeed

1. Help them build their team

Who have they inherited on their immediate team? What are the work functions and specific areas of expertise each brings, and even more than that, what is their appetite for change? What is their work style profile (we use DISC, for example) and what are the implications for interactions? The new department head may have a vastly different style then her predecessor, leaving the team struggling for months to try to figure out how to interact.

2. Address the infrastructure to support them  

What processes and technological support are in place to help the new hire communicate effectively and efficiently, to receive and share information?

3. Clearly articulate what success looks like in this particular culture

Define in no uncertain terms what year end success looks like: metrics and milestones. Identify what behaviors will help the new leader achieve those goals, but also the tacit elements of the culture that will help or hinder if the new person is not aware of those elements.

4. Help them build successful relationships at work with key stakeholders

In order for them (and their project, team, department) to succeed, who do they need to know sooner rather than later? What is the best way in your culture to build relationship and allies?

Utilize these four steps to improve the success rate of onboarding new leaders in your organization. What processes does your organization have in place to help new leaders succeed?

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Topics: organizational change, new leader onboarding

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