December 22, 2020

Setting Up New Leaders for Success

Hiring a new leader can be stressful for a company’s C-suite, employees, and the new executive. Staff may equate a new face in the C-suite to major corporate or brand changes, and even job insecurity if the company is looking for an operational overhaul. These factors can make it difficult for a new executive to be met with a warm reception and smooth transition to their new role – but it does not need to be that way.

There are ways to identify, introduce, and welcome a new leader to ensure that they are set up for success with their new team, as well as in the job that they have been hired to do.

As a hiring professional that specializes in executive search, I have found that there are actions that both the company and the candidate can take to ensure an effortless transition.

  1. Finding the Right Fit
  2. Company: Especially when the role to be filled is a pivotal one, there will be varying opinions from the board, fellow C-suite members, and key stakeholders on what an ideal fit would look like. It is important to identify an internal search committee consisting of a handful of key stakeholders to manage candidate interviewing. Companies should consider working with a search firm to interview candidates and internal stakeholders to identify challenges and key messages. In order to identify candidates with strong industry knowledge and tactical experience, transparency is key. Having the opinions of key stakeholders streamlined by a third party will ensure the candidate pool consists of the best additions to the culture and a skillset that matches to help move the organization’s goals forward.
  3. Candidate: In today’s world, a proactive and mindful leader is essential. Leading a company successfully requires a passion for the brand, the mission, and the future of the business. The candidate should ask questions throughout the interview process to determine the company’s values, vision, and culture so that they can make an informed decision about whether their leadership style and goals align with the business. In order to add to the business’s success, a candidate needs to be sure that they are appropriately qualified to enhance and build upon the current state of the business and its culture.
  1. Organizing the Onboarding Process
  2. Company: Prior to a new executive starting, the organization needs to provide the necessary tools and culture for an efficient onboarding process. I recommend coordinating pre-scheduled meetings with fellow members of the C-suite, board, and key stakeholders, so that on day one they can understand where the company is and where it should go. Additionally, this will build a positive rapport with colleagues from the start, ensuring that the new hire feels supported and comfortable involving them when appropriate. When leaders and employees interact effectively, they are more likely to be engaged and inspired.
  3. Candidate: Being a good leader is a never-ending journey and it starts before the first “official” day. The candidate should come into their new role with as much research done as possible about the company they are going to lead. This includes reviewing all articles and available reports, familiarizing oneself with c-suite and board members, and coming prepared with ideas and goals in mind to move the company forward to its next chapter. This will not only earn the respect of stakeholders initially but will also help decrease time spent acclimating to the new role and can be spent making valuable contributions and improvements. As a leader, trust is the most valuable asset.  If a leader shows their commitment and passion for a new role, it will be seen and felt by those around them and begin to build the foundation of trust.
  1. Introducing the New Leader to Staff
  2. Company: As staff will likely be feeling uneasy about a change in the leadership of the business, leaders must have important conversations with staff before the new executive hire starts. A new leadership hire should never be a surprise or shock to staff, and meetings should be held safely in person or virtually to talk through and address any concerns staff may have about the change before the new hire assumes his or her role. This may be a good time to discuss professional development or specific needs with other key staff members.  Occasionally, there are internal employees who applied for the job but are not awarded the position.  Now is the time to develop or discuss how to continue their engagement and professional development within the organization.  When applicable, we propose that internal applicants are paired with leadership coaches.  This shows the employee that the company wants them there and they are invested in their success.  This will also encourage staff to be welcoming to the candidate who was successfully chosen for the position.
  3. Candidates: Leaders work for their people and to be successful, they should try to understand their new employees' needs and motivations. Kindness tends to have a greater impact and typically new leaders have more success when they build up their inherited team rather than tear it down. New hires should position themselves as accessible and approachable from day one. This includes taking a stroll through the office and stopping (within a safe distance) to introduce themselves or reaching out virtually to members of the team with a short intro and hello. When a new leader can build meaningful relationships, it will take the guesswork out of who they are and how much they care. The sooner a new hire humanizes themselves to their staff, the quicker employees will feel comfortable accepting them as leaders.

Candidates and companies both play important roles in ensuring a smooth introduction of a new leader to the business. By planning appropriately, and exercising transparency, new leaders can enhance all facets of business starting on their very first day.

For more information and support with your next executive and leadership search, visit

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