Congratulations, you’ve landed that amazing new job! In the interviews, you shone a spotlight on your strengths and you candidly addressed your development needs. They loved what they heard!

Now that you’re hired, you can relax and let things unfold. Can’t you???

In my work with people who are moving into a new role, particularly those joining a new employer, we often spend time prior to “day 1” focusing on how they want to be seen.

You see, “branding” will happen with or without your deliberate efforts. From the first time you shake hands or introduce yourself, others will make assumptions about you and begin to shape their interactions with you accordingly. They’ll decide whether to share information with you because you seem collaborative and trustworthy. Or, they’ll decide to block your efforts to gain organizational knowledge because they see you as arrogant and competitive in a negative way. It’s just human nature to try to simplify our surroundings.

So, when I link “personal branding” with onboarding (the timeframe of ramping up in a new job), what I’m referring to is having a clear picture in your own mind of the impression you want others to gain about you.

What 3 words or phrases do you want to immediately come to mind when people meet you?
Which of your strengths do you want to clearly project?
What do you want others to know and believe about you?

I recommend focusing on 3 words for a reason… being a walking laundry list of 20 personal competencies will not only be impossible for others to retain…it’s a quick way to get your colleagues’ backs-up. Think in sound bites. What 3 qualities are most important for you to be well-received? And I mean geunine qualities that are authentically yours…not some manufactured image that belies the real you.

Use these 3 qualities as your personal affirmation in morning when you jump out of bed, when you look in the mirror and when you are focusing on bolstering your confidence for that next important meeting. Such as, “I am an attentive listener. I am an insightful analyst. I get things done.”

I also approach this exercise by encouraging my clients not to think in terms of what message they want to send about themselves, but what message do they want others to receive. It’s a subtle shift that makes a world of difference. Focus on how you hope to have others perceive you. What do they need to hear (or not hear) from you? If you know yourself to be an “attentive listener”…what do others need to see you doing when they first meet you to conclude that you are in fact a great listener. Telling them you have this quality sure won’t cut it!

Moving into a new role is a challenging and overwhelming time. Keep your self-talk focused and manage your personal brand. It will pave the way to successful relationships and a great future!

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 my last blog post I shared the first step of dealing with the disappointment of starting a new position full of enthusiasm only to find as the weeks have gone on that the boss you were so excited to work for has turned out to offer less promise than you’d hoped.

This step was to face up and recognize that your boss is human too.

In this post…we’ll look at Step 2- Discuss Mutual Expectations with the New Boss

More often than not, I find that the challenges that surface in early weeks of a boss-direct report relationship arise because expectations have not been aligned.

This doesn’t necessarily mean there is a MIS-alignment…but simply that the alignment conversations haven’t taken place. There are too many assumptions being made.

Conversations about expectations need to focus on the WHAT and the HOW.

A) First the “what”…

If your boss isn’t sending you warm and fuzzy vibes…perhaps it’s because you’ve launched in by focusing on the wrong priorities. Your job description is not necessarily the right place to start. Be sure to have a conversation that identifies the most important initiatives over the next few weeks to demonstrate that you are ramping-up in a productive and appropriate manner. In other words…what does your boss REALLY want you to do in your first few weeks?

Here’s a client scenario. After three short weeks on the job, Jill was getting the sense that her boss was somehow let-down by Jill’s contribution. When she got the nerve up to check-in with him, she learned that the subject her boss most wished she would address was a long-standing organizational issue that was well within the scope of Jill’s role at her previous organization. Resolving this issue didn’t involve a learning curve for her at all. This expertise was, in fact, one of the key reasons Jill had been hired…despite the job description focusing on areas that were outside of Jill’s comfort zone. Jill had mistakenly understood that the “right thing” to do was to show commitment right off the bat to learning about all of the areas that were new to her. This misunderstanding could have easily derailed the relationship and Jill’s perceived performance in her role.

Now, how about YOU’re “what”? Based on the discussions through the recruitment process, what had you expected to be able to focus on in the initial few weeks of joining the organization? How are these expectations being met? I’ve witnessed new Onboarding coaching clients who are stewing over the disappointment of not being able to sink their teeth into the assignments that they’d been promised. It’s my belief that sitting on this disappointment is a sure start down the road of disengagement. Better to have a conversation about what’s different from what was expected. Then, in a non-blaming way, work to clarify how and when you may be able to experience the initiatives you thought you would be part of your mandate.

B) Now let’s look at the “how”…

Even clients who are perfectly aligned with their bosses on the “what” expectations for their first 90 days, often have missteps on the “how”. Mutual expectations around communication style, mode of communication and frequency are all too often left to chance. It’s only when things go horribly wrong that the discussions take place and by then it’s often too late.

In my self-coaching workbook, “Wow Them In Your New Job!”, I include an exercise that encourages new hires to set time aside with the new boss to talk about:
• Whether they prefer email, phone or face-to-face
• Frequency of updates preferred
• Turnaround times expected
• Nature of feedback preferred, etc.

Remember that this is a conversation about “mutual expectations”…it’s a chance to express your needs as well…it’s not just about pleasing the boss. Optimal communication meets the needs of both parties.

Having these “what” and “how” conversations to clarify expectations as early in the game as possible can go a long way to rectifying an uncomfortable relationship with a new boss. I’ve witnessed many boss-direct report relationships turning around profoundly with even one open and direct conversation about expectations.

So, if you are disappointed with how things are going with your new boss… what do you have to lose? Arrange for an “expectations” conversation as soon as possible.

My next blog post will address Step 3. After attempting steps 1 & 2, it’s time to decide if the gap is workable—or not.

In my last blog post I focused on the disappointment of starting your new position full of enthusiasm only to find as the weeks have gone on that the boss you were so excited to work for has turned out to offer less promise than you’d hoped.

I observed that my clients who are most successful in moving through this disappointment are those that take the following steps:

1. Face Up. Your Boss is Human Too
2. Have a Discussion About Mutual Expectations
3. Decide if the Gap Is Workable. Move On… or Not.

In this post…we’ll look at Step 1.

Face Up. Your Boss is Human Too

Once you’ve recognized that you are indeed working for a human being who is bound to have foibles, bad days and development needs of his or her own, you need to figure out what cost to you is your boss’ humanity.

News alert! Perhaps at some point in the future, we will all report directly to an avatar, but in the meantime…reality is that you will ALWAYS work for a human boss (unless of course you start your own business and then the clients become your human bosses).

So, you need to decide rationally… Is the situation with your boss so extreme as to be intolerable? For example, ethical issues, harassment, undermining behavior (If so, move directly to Step 3). Or, is it simply less than an ideal relationship and thus ripe for ample opportunity for learning for you?

As I often coach my clients… try to flip the situation upside down.

How is THIS boss as THIS time with THESE flaws actually perfect for your own development and progress as leader? The Center for Creative Leadership has long identified having a difficult boss as being one of the developmental experiences that contributes most powerfully to growth of successful executives. What can you gain from this relationship?

How can you get over yourself? So, the dream of the ideal boss hasn’t been fully realized…now what? You’ve made the move, you’re in the role. How do you make the best out of the situation?

How can you lighten up about your boss’ flaws? In relationship coaching we are taught that focusing on the positivity in the relationship is the best way to nurture a relationship. It’s all too easy to train our eyes to see what’s missing or what is different that what we’d prefer. What if you were to be deliberate about taking the time to notice your boss’s strengths and how you could benefit from being around these strengths?

I recently coached a client (I’ll call her Kelly) who acknowledged that she had been so blinded by how impossibly hard-driving a previous boss had been that she literally couldn’t see any of the “good” in him. She failed to learn from him how to “pre-sell” ideas through one-on-one conversations prior to major presentations for executive team approval. Kelly’s boss was an absolute master at this art of influence and it is now a skill that my client is working hard at developing. How much further ahead might she be now, had she not turned ignored the leadership lessons her previous boss COULD have offered?

So, provided you aren’t working for someone who compromises your personal ethics or deliberately undermines your sense of self, I challenge you to shake off the victim mentality and see what learning there is for you in this relationship.

My next posts will address Steps 2 and 3.

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

Now that the term “onboarding” has become part of the business vernacular, I’ve been increasingly turning my attention to educating clients about the power of effective “pre-boarding”. This is the timeframe BEFORE the candidate joins a new employer.

There are plenty of horror stories about what happens on a poorly executed “day one” for a new hire. You know the deal…
– the boss is too busy to spend any time or is even away on vacation
– the office isn’t ready
– the business cards aren’t printed
– the receptionist keeps turning away calls for this person she’s never heard of
– the computer isn’t connected
– the message waiting light is blinking madly but the new hire has no idea how to use the phone system
…and on it goes. Disengagement begins on day #1.

Now, let’s step back further in the process to look at how engagement has been fostered since the employment offer was presented.

Consider this scenario…

After a long, involved search process involving many interviews, Carl was sent a letter of offer via courier. On the day he received his offer– a Friday– Carl faxed in his acceptance and then didn’t hear anything further except for a call from the payroll department telling him to bring in his birth certificate on his first day, two weeks from then.

Meanwhile, when Carl met with his current boss to deliver his resignation, she was gracious and congratulated him about his new job. She said she wished she’d known he was interested in moving from Marketing to Sales as his company would have loved to have supported him with such a cross-functional opportunity. She spoke highly of his contribution and said he would be very difficult to replace.

When he told his colleagues he was leaving, they were shocked and clearly saddened. They expressed how much they’d miss his jokes and family stories…not to mention his reliable commitment to the team. Carl was treated to many one-on-one lunches over the next two weeks where there were plenty of laughs shared about memories over the past 6 years.

They are poured on the love!! And what’s more…since Carl really is a great find… the comments made were all very sincere.

Meanwhile, Carl’s new boss took a vacation during this two week timeframe. He didn’t reach out to Carl at all!

Carl’s wife was annoyed about the challenges presented by his new job. The commute would be longer and he wouldn’t be able to share the daycare pick-up responsibilities any longer.

Is it any wonder that Carl would begin to have second thoughts before he even begins his new job? Imagine if he experiences a bad first day!

This is a new hire retention challenge in the making. It happens time and again.

In a hot market for talent…strong employees who plan to leave their organizations are heavily counter-offered, “shown the love” and are increasingly opting to reverse their decision. Many are returning to the employers that they know and where they have emotional attachments. “Pre-boarding” or beginning a relationship with the new hires before they even join a new company is absolutely critical.

For ideas to create Connectivity in Pre-Boarding, see Part 2 in this Blog.

I invite your comments on pre-boarding experiences.

NO…I’m not referring to your attire…that’s a topic for another posting.

When organizations are asked to list the most important behaviors for people who successfully transition into a new organization, the number one answer is “listen, observe and ask questions”. In spite of what you might expect, a new employer is looking for you to primarily learn from THEM in the early weeks, rather than to PROVE your worth.

In the first month of onboarding with a new organization, you will be judged more by the insightfulness of your questions than your recommendations.

It’s ironic that during much of the interview process, potential employers spend much of their time convincing you that they can’t wait to hear all of your new ideas to foster change. Yet, after you are hired, spouting one too many of these ideas too quickly in the onboarding timeframe is a sure way to derail your early success.

It may seem simple, but the challenge is to show your genuine curiosity, arrange opportunities to listen to as many people as possible, and to observe how the various parts of the organization fit together. It is particularly important to ask others about their priorities and how their role fits into the broader strategies of the organization. This is the time to be a sponge!

It is human nature that people love to be listened to, so you need to not only ask questions and listen with interest, but also to give indication that you have heard others fully. When you have one-on-one meeting, take the opportunity to sum up what you’ve heard. When you meet with your boss, give a top-line on what you’ve been observing and the themes that you’ve been picking up through your conversations with others. You needn’t have figured out all the answers in these first few weeks, you simply need to demonstrate that you’ve been listening closely and are using your insight to make observations.

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