Now that the term “onboarding” is clearly a part of the business vernacular, most organizations are doing a much better job than they ever have of preparing new hires for their new role and new environment.

In keeping with the philosophy “the best gift you can give an employee is a great boss”, I’ve also observed that organizations have made improvements in equipping hiring managers to support their new direct reports.

So, the relationship of the new hire with the organization and the relationship with the new boss are being addressed in Onboarding programs. But lately I’ve noticed a third relationship being added to the list in organizations that are truly interested in staying ahead of the “onboarding best practices” curve. This relationship is the one between the new hire and his team.

I recently presented at an Onboarding conference where organizations in the financial services and healthcare sectors both mentioned the importance of peers and direct reports in supporting the Onboarding process. There’s nothing wildly new about this in and of itself. The best Onboarding programs have always included meetings with peers to ensure that the new hire builds these key relationships early in. And one-on-one meetings with direct reports plus full team meetings are also critical in the initial weeks after a new leader is hired.

What IS new, however, is the shift in perspective around accountability. The new hire’s direct team is now being positioned as having shared accountability for the success of their new peer or new boss.

For example, CEO’s and heads of HR are spending time with Leadership Teams preparing them to help ramp-up a new member of the Team with the explicit message, “You are ALL accountable for the success of your new colleague”. In some environments, performance measures are even built-in to ensure that colleagues pay attention to extending a hand to their new peer. In these companies, sharing resources and information is a desired behavior and the message from the top is clear, “if the new man or woman doesn’t make it…we all share collective responsibility for this outcome”. Such a message raises the stakes big time!

Instead of the typical “crossing-of-arms-across-the-chest” stance, collaboration is stronger and preparation gets underway before the new peer joins the team.

• What should she know to be successful around here?
• What land mines should be pointed out?
• What’s the most efficient way of bringing him up to speed without creating overwhelm?

This accountability shift gets even more interesting when we focus on the new hire’s direct reports. What could be the difference in the behavior of employees who are coached that “setting your new boss up for success is an expected part of your job”? Yes, of course, the new boss still needs to earn trust, respect and credibility, but imagine the possibilities of adopting the perspective that “everyone in the team is essentially onboarding to this changed team, so let’s all take ownership for how well it goes”.

For me in my work as an Onboarding Coach…having the opportunity to support the SYSTEM, not just the new hire, dramatically enhances the success of the assignment.

I’d love to hear your ideas of how your organization prepares “the system” or the direct team for the new hire. Where does their accountability lie for the new hire’s success?

In HR, it seems like an age-old proverb now…”people are rarely if ever fired for technical competence…it’s all about fit”. We get this now. We know that background experience should be a very small part of recruitment specifications and that hiring based on the quality of the resume is missing the mark. As recruitment processes have evolved, our interviews now focus much more on ensuring fit:
• cultural fit with the organization
• fit with the manager’s style
• fit with the behavioural characteristics that differentiate success in the job.

We’ve learned that hiring someone based on “what they know” and “what they know alone” is short-sighted and can lead to mishires (people who are up to the tasks but are simply unlikely to be successful in their new environment).

So, the penny has dropped for many HR folks and hiring managers alike on recruitment.

Now flash forward in the process.

You’ve found the ideal candidate and she’s ready to join the organization…on to the onboarding phase.

Think about the content that’s at the core of most Onboarding programs…

You’ve got it…lots of “technical content” about the company—formal organization charts, company products, dates in the company’s history, etc. Some of these details may be interesting to know. AND, they are details that have little to do with whether someone is going to be successful or not in the new environment.

If you fire people for fit, here’s a thought….how about an Onboarding process that helps them with fitting in?

Please know that I’m not referring to creating a culture of clones and undermining diversity. I’m simply pointing out that there are certain rules of the game that are organizationally specific. Incorporating these insights into your onboarding process can be invaluable for enhancing retention of great new hires.

‘Cause fit isn’t entirely about the new hire’s DNA. I’ve seen it time and again…the person who is absolutely right for the job and the company can STILL flounder during transition. Nobody wins when this happens.

• Smart people can flex their behaviors if they are given the appropriate heads-up.

• Smart people want to communicate with the boss in their preferred style. What if they didn’t have to guess what these preferences were?

• Smart people know what to do to maneuver around landmines. What if they had a road map as to where some of them might be?

• Smart people pay attention to what’s genuinely important for success in a particular organizational culture. What if these success factors weren’t a secret?

So…in designing your Onboarding Programs…don’t forget the insights you’ve gained from recruitment and be sure to build-in ways of giving people what they need to know about fit.

Moving to a new organization is an exhilarating time. A clean slate! A fresh start! No baggage! A shiny new boss that just picked you from hundreds of candidates in a hiring process!

Yes, it’s an exciting time. This post focuses on the relationship with the “shiny new boss” and how this relationship often morphs very quickly and the “dew comes off the rose”.

The recruitment process is by nature a courtship. We put on our best clothes, we emphasize our most attractive qualities and we bring our respective lists of what we are looking for in the other party—candidate or employer. In the role of hiring manager, the boss wants to be respected and admired. In a competitive market for top talent, he recognizes that his management style is part of the “attraction offer”. It’s a rare hiring manager that completely lets down his guard in the recruitment process and reveals all of his leadership faults.

So… you are wooed! This boss appears to be everything you are looking for. Everything your current manager (whom you’ve known for the past five years) is not. All the qualities you listed as being important to you in a manager, he miraculously seems to have. You can’t wait to be mentored by this perfect boss.

Then a couple of weeks into your new job, the dew begins to come off the rose.

Once the orientation meetings that were pre-booked by HR are no longer being added to your calendar, you can’t seem to get the boss’ ear. He travels so much and always seems to be closeted in critical meetings with the executive team.

The parts of YOUR job description that he used to handle have not been delegated to you yet and the annual budget process is starting in two weeks. You don’t have a clue of what’s been spent in current year on the budget line that you were supposed to inherit.

Your boss always seemed so patient and respectful in the interview process, yet lately he has been edgy and curt.

You have a sinking feeling that your new manager is not the ideal boss you thought he was afterall.

In my coaching of leaders in the first few months of their new role—during the onboarding phase—this scenario is repeated all too often. Many clients find themselves waking up to a reality of a boss relationship that is not what they had dreamt of finding in their new role.

It’s been my experience that the clients who are most successful in coming out the other side of this disappointment are those that take the following approach:

1. Face Up. Your Boss is Human Too
2. Have a Discussion About Mutual Expectations
3. Decide if the Gap Is Workable

In my next blog post, I will elaboarate on each of these 3 steps.

Stay tuned!

It’s exciting to see the exponential growth of social networking activity in this field. It wasn’t long ago that I could only identify 1 small group in LinkedIn that was established to address the topic of Onboarding.

Now, there are numerous Fortune 500 companies that have established sites explicitly for new hires in a given year. It’s a great way to create a cohort to foster connectivity– particularly important for engagement and retention of your Millenial hires. But the value cuts across generations and organizational levels. Everyone craves a feeling of belonging when they’re the “new kid on the block”.

There are also social networks cropping up for participants in various conferences related to the topic of onboarding.

As I’ve observed this growth in activity (from a time when I began working in this niche four years ago and had to spell the word “onboarding” each time I mentioned it)…I still notice a couple of gaping holes in the social networking scene related to onboarding. So, I’ve just launched 3 LinkedIn Groups in an attempt to address these holes.

1) New Hires- Clearing the 90-Day Hurdle: This is a public forum supporting entry level and professional new hires across a broad spectrum of industries. I’ll draw from work with clients and research on success factors & derailers in the first 90 days to lead discussion groups and foster connectivity between fellow new hires.

2) New Managers- Clearing the 90-Day Hurdle: This is a similar public forum addressing the unique needs of leaders and managers as they join new organizations or ramp-up in a new role and face enormous pressures to perform.

3) Onboarding Best Practices: This group is a forum for Onboarding specialists, HR professionals and Recruiters who are passionate about raising the bar for preboarding and onboarding experiences of new hires and their managers.

I’m looking forward to stimulating discussions and plenty of sharing in the months ahead!

After two years in your job with your new company, you’ve finally got the lay of the land. You know what it takes to get ahead and you understand all the key requirements of your position. You’ve ramped up. You are fully onboarded. You’re cookin’!

Then the world changes. Your boss leaves the organization and senior management goes outside to recruit her replacement. The announcement is out…the boss starts in two weeks and he hasn’t even worked in your industry before!

Guess what…you’re almost back at square one. As the new boss gears up…YOU are also onboardng all over again.

In recent years, there’s been plenty written about the onboarding process as this term has become more of a part of our business vernacular. Yet, I find that many organizations are still thinking of the onboarding experience as one that applies only in a very narrow circumstance– when a new employee joins an organization.

Yes, joining a new organization is perhaps one of the most dramatic transition times for an employee at any level, particularly for new leaders. But, when you gain a new boss, many of the principles that apply to traditional onboarding, apply to this transition experience as well.

One of the critical first steps of successful onboarding is CLARIFYING EXPECTATIONS. This post deals with the various ways that you will need to re-clarify expectations, now that there is a new boss at the helm.

1. Clarifying/Redefining Your Role

Think your current role and job description still hold just because your title hasn’t changed? Think again. Over time, as your new boss finds his way forward, you should expect to renegotiate the scope and focus of your role. In fact, being proactive by signaling in your early one-on-one that you appreciate that there may be shifts in your current role that your new boss would like to see will demonstrate your maturtity and insight. So, have that initial meeting to review your current role, but in your discussions demonstrate your flexibility and openness to the new boss’ ideas. Also offer suggestions as to areas that might need to be tweaked once you hear the new boss’ mandate and points of passion about his new department.

2. Redefining Success

Sure, the new boss will have to pay attention to the rules of the game in the new organization, but he will also arrive with his own set of rules around what types of behaviour he respects and rewards.

What does success mean to him?
What are his hot bottons?
What has he promoted people for in the past?
Specifically, in your role, what does he most want to see from you over the next 90 days?

3. Identifying Best Communication Practices

Your old boss loved email and weekly half-page updates on your project goals. To continue providing this means of communication to your new boss without checking in with him could be the kiss of death for a boss that rarely reads his email, prefers informal face-to-face discussion and expects frequent phone calls when you are on the road. You could still be communicating the same content that was on the mark for the old boss, but suddenly the new boss feels “left out of the loop” and has little sense of connection with you relative to your peers who also prefer in-person updates. It is important to have deliberate conversations about what style of communication you both prefer and to negotiate an approach that meets both your needs. Never assume.

Bottom line? Don’t under-estimate the importance of this transition timeframe both for you and your new boss. Thinking about it as akin to gaining a new job or joining a new company will help you to give the change the attention it deserves. It is critical to spend time upfront Clarifying Expectations– both your expectations of your new boss and the new boss’ expectations of you.

They’ve wooed you for your expertise. They can’t wait for you to start your new position to bring your experiences to the new company. The ad said they were looking for a strong change agent who would come in and challenge the status quo…and they picked you!

Now your first day in your new job is finally here and you are chomping at the bit to bring all of your talents to bear and impress the heck out of everyone! You’ll show as quickly as you can that they made the right choice in hiring you.


What they neglected to tell you was that the rules of the game change once you shift from being a recruitment candidate to a new hire. Yes, they want all of your fresh ideas…but all in good time. There’s some important credibility-building, listening & observing and relationship-building to do first.

In our recent Onboarding Group Coaching call, hiring managers and Human Resources leaders alike shared personal experiences of dealing with this dilemna.

Here’s a 2.5 minute clip of a participant sharing an example of how the focus changes from attracting a change agent to coaching the same person after they’re hired on how to be well-received in their new workplace.

Click Here to listen now

To hear more about how you or the people you hire can Ramp Up Right!, join us for our next free Onboarding Coaching Call on Tuesday, June 24th at 10am EST (New York, Toronto)

Click Here to sign up now

Because I specialize in onboarding coaching with leaders moving into new organizations or up to a challenging new level of leadership, I am eager to read all the latest books on these important transitions. Scott Eblin’s book, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, Davies-Black Publishing, 2006, is a highly accessible read. Drawing on in-depth interviews with leaders, Eblin identifies nine key sets of behaviors and beliefs that rising executives must pick up and let go of to suceed at the next level.

I have always found it particularly rewarding to coach leaders through the shift of letting go of a behavior that has been the very ticket for getting them promoted. A common example is the high-achieving, results-focused individual contributor who is promoted to management and suddenly finds himself struggling with the challenge of letting go of his own hands-on approach and needing to shift to “getting things done through others”.

There are apparent connections between the behaviors that Eblin describes and the 7 types of transitions or promotional steps described in the classic, The Leadership Pipeline, by Ram Charan,Stephen Drotter and James Noeland . This has long been a favourite book of mine for its powerful insights about the significant shifts in skill-set requirements that accompany major promotions. For example:
o “From Managing Self to Managing Others”
o “From Managing Others to Managing Managers”
o “From Functional Manager to Business Manager”

In The Next Level, Eblin also describes the differentiators between success and failure for new executives. Many of his observations are consistent with the reasearch interviews I had conducted in developing the Clearing the 90-Day Hurdle process. (A copy of the report, Top 10 Success Factors and Seven Deadly Sins for Leaders Transitioning Into Organizations can be downloaded here

A useful book to add to your library about transition experiences.

You’ve heard the stats from me before– 40 to 50% of all new leaders fail to meet the expectations of the role for which they were recruited. Leaders of Colour face particular challenges in integrating into the organization, demonstrating their worth, and finding internal role models and mentors. Progressive organizations go to great lengths to acquire the best and brightest talent possible. Then they are often disappointed to find that many of their talented visible minority recruits end up leaving within the first year.

In the first 90 days after joining a new organization or being promoted, it is critical that a new leader gain support of key stakeholders, listen and show appreciation for the organization’s own culture and create early wins. During a time of intensive performance pressure, these leaders also often experience considerable dissonance about joining the new organization and have fears about whether they are right for the new role. Leaders of Colour deal with further obstacles at both the conscious and unconscious level.

My colleague, Gina Columna of G-force International, and I are currently conducting research into effective transitions for Leaders of Colour. Gina is an Asian American coach and consultant based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Our research will be shared at the upcoming North Carolina SHRM Annual Conference on September 19th, 2006.

We are passionate about supporting individual minority leaders, their managers and the organizations who are committed to their success.

Gina and I invite contact from Leaders of Colour at the executive level as well as emerging leaders to arrange for an interview with us. We are interested in looking at generational patterns between Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. We are curious about success strategies for both new hires and internal promotions. We are eager to have rich conversations about what works well and what doesn’t.

If you, or someone else you know would be interested in a conversation to support this research, please send an email to