Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Leader Onboarding: Stakeholder Interviews

An effective new leader onboarding process can greatly reduce the time it takes a new leader to get up to speed, improve teamwork, and improve retention.

Most organizations do a pretty decent job at the basics, i.e., a meeting with the boss, the team, and a few key stakeholders, directions to the rest room and cafeteria, etc….

Although, I’ve heard my share of horror stories, as I’m sure many of you have. One of my favorites was the newly hired executive that had to sit in a conference room for his first 30 days on the job waiting for his terminated predecessor to clear out of his office. Awwwkward.

Some organizations, with the help of HR, OD, or training will offer to facilitate a new leader integration meeting, where the new leader gets together with the new team and discusses expectations of each other. If you’re a new leader, take advantage of the offer, or ask for help. It’s a great way to accelerate the team building and trust between a new leader and his/her team.

There’s one more piece of the new leader onboarding process I’d recommend, especially for newly hired or promoted executives: stakeholder interviews.

Like all good processes, it’s simple, yet effective:

Someone from HR, OD, or training works with the new leader’s manager and the new leader to identify a list of key stakeholders the new leader is going to need to work with to ensure success.

The “interviewer” then has meetings with each key stakeholder and asks the following questions (or make up your own):

1. What are your expectations and primary focuses of this role?

2. What land mines, sensitive situations exist that (the new leader) should be aware of?

3. If we had to prioritize (the new leader’s) focus according to timelines, what should (the new leader) focus on first in 30 Days, then 90 Days and in 6 Months?

4. What relationships must (the new leader) develop (both internal & external) to ensure the success of their role?

5. How would you describe the culture that (the new leader) will be working in? Where do you see the gaps?

6. What will be the key measures of (the new leader’s) success in this role?

7. What concerns do you have regarding (the new leader) taking on this role?

8. What advice would you give (the new leader) to ensure there’s a successful transition?

9. How will you support (the new leader)?

The interviewer then produces a confidential report for the new leader to help in their transition. It's like a secret decoder ring for success as a new leader!

Are there any other questions you’d want to ask a new leader’s stakeholders?


George Bradt said...

These are good ideas for the assimilation part of onboarding. It's also important to pay attention to the accommodation and acceleration parts.

Accommodation - making sure the new employee has the tools he or she will need to do work. (Like computer, phone, desk, pass codes and pass keys)

Acceleration - making sure the new employee has the resources and support he or she needs to deliver.

More on these in our book, "Onboarding"

George Bradt - PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding -

Erika Lamont, Connect the Dots Consulting said...

Yes! Great start to get the new leader and team aligned. I agree with George's additions and would like to suggest one more - feedback.

Most organizations are not good at providing timely and actionable feedback to their new leaders.

Feedback is critical and when done correctly, can literally "save" new leaders from failure.

Dan McCarthy said...

George -
Thanks, I like the way you've broken onboarding down into 3 parts. And they even all start with "A". (-:

Agree, 100! But when would be the right time?

Supriya Desai said...


As has become the case with virtually of your posts, thoroughly enjoyed this one, for a couple of reasons. First, impeccable timing as I start a new leadership role on Monday and was just giving thought to my stakeholder interview questions. I was pleasantly surprised to hear my future boss tell me he's working to schedule 1-on-1's with the leadership team I'll partner with in my role. Made sure to let him know what a great move I felt that was and how helpful it would be to me. Second, in my last few roles, I developed a habit of doing this sort of organically. Having gone from a consulting role to an internal leadership role, I found I didn't have immediate access to key stakeholders the way I used to when taking on a new engagement and had to connect with project sponsors ASAP. And it just seemed a natural thing to do, owing perhaps to my change management background.

Which brings me to your question on additional questions :-) Really liked the ones you listed and picked up 2 new ones (#4, #9 - never even thought to ask this but DUH.) The only ones on the list I've developed over the last few years that I didn't see on yours were:

1. What was the motivation for these changes and what does the future look like if our efforts were to be successful? (From a change mgmt perspective, this is always essential to know - who "gets" it, how well do they articulate it, is there leadership team alignment, etc.)

2. Have you had experience working with anyone on my team or What is the general perception of the capabilities of this team (if inheriting a team)?

Both of these might be considered more situation specific but I've found the responses I've gotten to be eye opening, sometimes only to point out the "gaps" I need to keep my eye on.

Keep writing - I share your valuable and helpful posts regularly!

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering why the advice/information needs to be collected by a third party - could the new manager 1) get the list of stakeholders from their manager; 2) interviews the stakeholders (except for the question regarding their concerns) then 3) debrief the answers with their manager?

Dan McCarthy said...

Supriya -
Thanks, that made my day! Good questions too.

Anon -
You may not get the same level of candor that you'd get using a third party. However, follow-up meetings with stakeholders sure would be a good idea.

davidburkus said...

So Dan, should we expect future posts on Accommodation and acceleration?

Mike said...

The attention to detail to make sure the new employee has the basic tools send a great message..."our people count and we want them to feel at home and be successful." Think about on-boarding through the new employee's eyes.

Dan McCarthy said...

David -
Well, I've done a posts on onboarding, I've just not used those terms.

Mike -
Thanks, agree! People never forget it.