Sink or Swim? - How structured integration can ease an Executive’s transition in to a new business

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Adam Walker.



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There are many factors that have nothing to do with an Executive’s ability to lead a business which can have a major impact on how quickly they become a fully performing leader upon joining a new company. Differences in the organisation’s size, culture, operations and politics, in the absence of proper integration and support, can foil even the most capable. A lack of support can even cut an Executive’s tenure short, requiring the company to repeat the executive search process and ultimately incurring further unnecessary costs. To avoid this, it is crucial to invest in integration at the outset of the engagement.

Most companies have a standard system in place for on-boarding new C-level and D-level leaders, generally consisting of administrative formalities and training in areas such as compliance. But these procedures do not address potential hazards executives will likely face in navigating their new colleagues’ working styles and the company’s cultural norms. The degree of integration support varies widely amongst companies, from a “sink or swim” approach to customised, strategic programs that allow new leaders to more fully and rapidly assimilate.

Adam Walker, Redline Executive’s Managing Partner has significant experience with working with executive clients’ On-Boarding processes. He has identified five major tasks leaders should undertake within their first few months of their executive / senior management role:

Assuming operational leadership

Even the most systematic and thorough executive / senior management recruiting process can only go so far in painting a complete picture of what a business is like. Yet to establish credibility, a new leader will need to demonstrate awareness of its operational issues. Giving this individual the information and opportunity to make decisions and solve problems early on helps them establish their role.

Engaging with the culture

It’s important to quickly gain an understanding of the organisation’s values, norms and beliefs regarding acceptable behaviour, as well as how to work within them, even if the leader wishes to change them. Some teams and individuals may work in a particular manner and how to approach a varied work force is critical in ensuring the existing working environment is not overly affected.

Secure acceptance from the team

Successful CEOs frequently take the pulse of their culture. When you’re just starting out it’s crucial to establish a baseline to:

  • Gain insights into how to grow the company in a healthy, optimal way supporting core company objectives
  • Improve and expand a unified company culture—and discover any silos or warring factions
  • Effectively motivate team members—what truly motivates them may surprise you
  • Identify the next generation of leaders—and determine who is your best investment

Taking charge of the team

A new leader will need to decide whether or not to retain talent. Ideally these decisions should be taken with a balance of objectivity and insider’s knowledge of team members’ strengths and weaknesses – which can be obtained through careful coordination with Human Resources Director (HR Director), along with facilitated sessions aimed at building trust.

Define strategic intent

As the new leader begins to shape the company’s strategy, particularly when a new strategy is required, he or she must first focus on corresponding aspects of the organisation, such as IT structure, talent management and performance measurement processes.

Adam comments: “Essentially, particularly in cases of CEO succession, integration should be regarded as a fundamental part of a company’s overall talent strategy. The steps taken within the first few weeks and months of an Executive’s tenure can determine whether – and how soon – that leader’s potential is optimised to the collective benefit of the company.”

For more information regarding Redline Executive’s services and processes please call 01582 450054

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