In this disruptive new economy, you must have a plan. Senior executives, especially CEOs, cannot just show up and expect to be successful.
There are some important benefits to be had for new executives to participate in an organization’s onboarding program, especially for Chief Executive Officers.
Onboarding programs, if properly constructed and executed, can significantly improve an executive’s chances for success, versus a 40 percent turnover rate in less than 24 months. That’s right, studies have shown that 40 percent of new executives are forced out, quit or are fired within the first two years. That startling number has been fairly consistent since the mid-2000s. Most of those executives were not on-boarded by their new organizations.
This is a subject I have written about for years. It remains a remarkable fact to me JUST how few organizations offer this transition support, and how many senior executives, especially CEOs, push back on accepting the help even though the benefits are demonstrably clear. As one partner with a national recruiting firm explained — his words not mine – “It is hard for some CEOs to get past a major roadblock they have: their ego. They do not believe they need any help.”
To their enormous credit, most are very successful and very confident in their abilities. Many have been successful in the past and they feel they know what it will take to be successful again. Of course, that is an assumption fraught with danger especially in today’s rapidly changing business climate, but it is hard to tell someone they are wrong if they think they are holding a royal flush.
Before we go further, for those who do not know, we need to ask: So, what is onboarding?
Onboarding as practiced by most companies is, in the simplest of terms, a program designed to bring a new executive up to speed before their first day of work so they can be more productive in a shorter amount of time.
For C-suite executives, the program has two components: providing information so he or she can be better prepared for the first day and supporting them in the development of an action plan for the first 100 days.
Today, I will focus on C-suite onboarding.
This version is a comprehensive process that combines the business intelligence developed by the search firm during its due diligence site visit, including in-depth conversations with board members, senior executives, members of management, supervisors and even key consumers, and guidance in helping the executive develop their 100-day action.
Many executives take time off between jobs — to rest and recharge — and although this is an important consideration, it should not be done at the expense of serious preparation.
There are important aspects to the new job that an incoming leader needs to know and understand as well as a list of individuals who might be allies and those who might be inclined to resist change. In every company there are passive-aggressive members of the leadership and management team who say one thing but do another. Having access to this verified intelligence as well as a deep understanding of the board’s vision and priorities will be integral for the new CEO in developing his or her First 100 Day Action Plan.
This level of preparation, starting from day one in sync with the board and senior leaders, is a real advantage.
So, just showing up without a plan, believing that past performance and industry expertise will be sufficient to win the day, is a bad idea. This is not the healthcare industry any of us started in. It is now a high performance, high service, no defects, exceptional outcomes with superior satisfaction scores business, where you put your employees first.
If that mouthful does not get your attention, nothing will. It is time to stop nodding your head as if you agree and really change, or you will be in the average tenure turnover group and for the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would want to be in that position — joining the masses looking for a new job, on average, about every 3.5 years.
The next time you look for a new job, along with asking about the potential employer’s corporate culture, which by the way is the most common of the unasked questions, inquire as to whether the search firm and the employer are collaborating on an onboarding plan.
If they are not working to provide that important service, you do not necessarily want to pull out of consideration because, frankly, very few health systems and hospitals have onboarding programs and fewer search firms include it in the professional fee. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in preparation. It just means you will have to do it on your own in consultation with the board chair or your new boss.
My millennial listeners know about trolls. Even some of my generation — the Boomers — are tuned in, but for those of you who do not know, or think you know but are not sure and haven’t taken the time to look it up online, let me bring you up to date.
Trolling, which has been around for a while but exploded in our most recent presidential election, to quote one definition, “is an Internet slang term for a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion often for the troll’s amusement.” Trolls can be located anywhere in the world. In some cases, trolling can be Internet harassment. In the last election, some partisans used the Internet as a tool to attack anyone who posted anything that criticized their candidate or point of view, and most of you know, it got ugly at times.
You might be surprised to know that a lot of middle-aged executives avoid using social media to support their career advancement because they are afraid of being sucked into worldwide social media embarrassment by trolls who call down the god jerks and launch embarrassing personal attacks.
I am not going to say that this nonsense doesn’t happen, because it does. When it does occur, the first rule is not to make it worse by responding. Never get into an argument on a social media or a text platform even if you are 100% right. You probably won’t win your debating point and you will end up looking pretty bad. I know, I lost my patience a couple of times and instantly wished I had not. Go turtle, which is to say, duck and cover. If there is nothing to add to fuel the fire, trolls, most of whom have the patience of a gnat, will move on to wreak havoc elsewhere. So if you follow these common sense rules, you will never have to worry or fear looking foolish unless, of course, you do something or say something foolish.
Never drink adult beverages and post. That can be an open invitation for the kind of viral trolling hell that probably won’t hurt your career in any lasting way but will make you extremely uncomfortable until the storm dies down and you can delete the offending comment. Some people, when they have consumed adult beverages lose a bit of their edge in the common sense department and tend to fire back at the troll. When that happens, the race to the bottom moves into high gear. Everyone knows that it is very dangerous to drink and drive. Well the same rule applies to drinking and posting.
Your posts, unless it is on your family and friends Facebook page, should be driven by your personal vision statement. Your Personal Vision Statement — also known as your PVS — describes what you want to accomplish with your career and how you want to get there. It is the bedrock of your personal strategic plan. The overriding theme should be driven by the brand image you want to develop and maintain and for what professional expertise you want to be known for. That should drive any post you make on your professional Facebook page and, more importantly, on LinkedIn which has more horsepower, business-wise. In the end, it is all about messaging discipline.
Never be snarky, even when someone questions, or worse, criticizes you for a post you made. For example, in healthcare today it is hard to avoid politics, especially when it comes to something that stirs a range of emotions like the grand repeal and replace debate happening this week in Washington. Even if you are an independent like me, or perhaps a political agnostic, you have to understand that sometimes you will be trolled even for a post that addresses some public policy issue that is important to the healthcare reform debate but comes down on the wrong side of a troll’s point of view. It is very tempting and so very easy to respond to some grossly misinformed troll who is just trying to stir the pot and influence your friends by challenging your point of view, or worse, labeling the report or analysis you posted as ridiculous garbage. Of course, that is when it gets really tempting to fire back, engaging in a series of rapid fire, can’t you top this, responses. Don’t. Think about your mission statement, think about your brand. Check your ego at the door and maintain your message discipline.
Avoid the pure politics, especially on sites like LinkedIn. That is a no-no. When you veer off into the political arena on Facebook or on Twitter, especially in today’s erratic and combative political climate, you run the very real risk that you may be attacked. I have to be very careful because I have a deep and abiding interest in politics and policy. Today my rule of thumb is to ask myself more than twice, whether a post will be beneficial to those who read my news feed on sites like Facebook, or whether it will just irritate people and attract the partisan, sometimes irrational prowling ideologues who are ready to pounce.
Just because you get trolled occasionally, do not let that push you from using social media. It is a too powerful career management tool for that sort of exit stage left response the first time someone fires a shot across your bow.
© 2021 John Gregory Self