During my work with a senior management team they had the opportunity to replace one of their members as the result of a promotion. After months of careful search, interviewing and selection decision they were aligned on the candidate of choice and were very optimistic about having him join the team.
The excitement was short-lived. In a matter of a few months, the person had alienated several colleagues, had 3 members of his staff resign (average tenure of the 3 was over 10 years!) and his predecessor being inundated with calls complaining about the pattern of behavior. He was managing from his office, communicating via e-mail and issuing one new directive after another without any consideration of the past in the company. The predecessor, frustrated, called me and said, “I cannot figure out why he is doing this. In the interview process we were all impressed with his interpersonal skills, ability to listen and communicate ideas effectively.”
I must admit I had to resist the urge to point out that the company had chosen to by-pass the usual selection step of in-depth Management Assessment which would have identified the “true person” they might be hiring but that was not what he needed to hear at that moment.
“What is he thinking?” my client kept asking me. Interesting and relevant question. What was the new hire’s personal agenda and objective upon entering the company?
As we talked about the situation we explored a few possibilities in trying to get inside the mind of the person. Was it a lack of personal awareness about behaviors that were not productive in the culture of his new company? Was it related to a lack of feedback about the behaviors in prior jobs? Was it a lack of basic skills in building relationships in new situations? Was it a conscious desire to “show people I run this department now?” Was it an over-compensation for the fact that, while he had great experience in the functional role, he had little experience in the new company’s industry?
The discussion reinforced the importance of several things related to the on-boarding and assimilation of new managers in particular. (I also personally believe companies particularly ignore this process when promoting from within):
* coach the individual on the culture of the organization and talk about how it differs from the one they just left
* probe how they plan to go about building relationships
* gather regular feedback from those they interact with and provide timely coaching and feedback to the new hire
* be direct in providing feedback when you discover they are creating problems in their early relationship building
* probe their thinking about what are the important things for them to accomplish in their first 3 months and 6 months on the job; for example,
the predecessors conclusion was that the new hire had decided that the most important thing was to show people he was in charge of the
department without regard to style and approach
* be prepared to be very candid if you need to coach and say, “If you continue doing what you are doing you will not be able to succeed in this
company. Here are the changes you need to make starting now.”
How do you go about preparing a newly hired manager to be successful? How do you probe whether their agenda is properly set?