Guest Editor - Kathleen Federici, M.Ed.

What does it take to successfully onboard a leader? Onboarding a leader is different than onboarding staff who will not directly contribute to the strategic direction, mission, values and goals of the organization. Staff with a straightforward job description and reporting chain require general organizational information and need to feel welcome in the established culture. Onboarding a leader takes much more.

The new leader needs to feel that ideas are not just welcome but valued. The new leader needs to know he or she has support in decisions and the implementation of change, whether large or small, as change always has an impact. Team members with strong leadership, organizational skills, and influential interpersonal skills are in large demand. Not only that, but they are expected to come into their new organizational culture equipped to accomplish more with less resources. Finding the right person for the job and successfully onboarding him or her is a very difficult task. It is not easy to find the right person for the job, and it is even a harder task to find that right person and offer him or her a successful experience to fit right in.

The benefits of successfully onboarding a leader can lead to better team morale, productivity, and more cohesive work groups across departments. Here are three tips to successfully onboard new leaders:

Expectations must be clear and understood. It is imperative to lessen confusion and ambiguity with goals and expected outcomes. This can be accomplished in the form of a work plan, goal plan, and/or strategic direction outline. Offering the history of the organization and where the organization wants to be can go a long way. The new organizational leader must understand his or her role and how that relates to the success of the business. There also needs to be a reality check that what the leader perceives as his or her role, actually is the intended role.

Invest the time. Yes, time is an investment with any new hire but a leader hire is a different type altogether. This person needs to understand the entire organization at an enterprise level so his or her decisions build connections across the various entities of the organization, not isolate or inadvertently discourage or negatively affect other work groups or departments.

Involve the new leader immediately. Give him or her opportunities to connect and interact in planning meetings, strategic meetings, and goal-development meetings. Your new leader needs to feel immediately involved. This can be accomplished by setting up conference calls or face-to-face meetings so he or she can start to understand how decisions have been and will be made while introducing him or her to key stakeholders. This offers the new leader insight into how obtaining buy-in for decisions and changes can best be accomplished. Effective and continual knowledge sharing and communication will be key to successful onboarding.

Onboarding Today

Onboarding a new leader is quite different today than even five years ago. Successfully onboarding a new leader will offer beneficial and positive results in a short time. Working out a plan for your leader and carving out the time to onboard him or her will surprise your organization by seeing how quickly that leader begins to make significant positive contributions to the management team, various work groups, departments and the overall organization.