“Ik ben niet gelukkig met wat ik nu doe, het kriebelt, ik wil weer …..” “Nee niet in de sector waar ik 23 jaar heb gewerkt”. Het afgelopen jaar was hij zijn netwerk ingedoken en had daar de nodige klussen naar binnen gehaald. Met een mooie omzet, meer dan 165.000. Vertel eens: wat is nu eigenlijk je probleem? Alles ok of toch niet? ? Een interessant thema en heel herkenbaar. De oude grenzen zijn weggevallen en er ligt een nieuwe vrije ruimte open. Hij loopt er in en er blijft van alles aan hem kleven en hij maakt er wat van. En tegelijkertijd geen gevoel en vertrouwen dat het nieuwe en onbekende ook “goed” mag zijn. Met recht “mag” zijn. Hoe werkt dat nu eigenlijk, Vrije Ruimte?
…. ben je er geweest. Ondanks (of misschien wel dankzij) de vakantietijd kreeg ik een paar opmerkingen. Die hadden alles te maken met de grote overwinning van het weer een baan hebben. Aan de orde van de dag nu er heel veel goede mensen langs de straat lopen opzoek naar een ‘nieuwe uitdaging”. Da’s hard werken houd ik al mijn outplacement kandidaten voor. En als dan het verlossende contract komt lijkt het allemaal voorbij. Gelukt! Ik ben binnen! Het is zeker een feestje waard. Maar niet te lang want nu begint de volgende fase in OnBoarden. Of zoals Aalt Aalten zo mooi kan zeggen: wanneer je denkt dat je er bent, ben je er geweest.
Onboarden vraagt emotionele lenigheid
Het gaat erom de emotionele lenigheid erin te houden. De fase van romantiek en hard ‘sellen’ van jezelf is voorbij. De klant heeft gekocht en nu leveren. En dat leveren is al begonnen tijdens de allereerste gesprekken. De verwachtingen zijn – onbewust -gewekt, signalen zijn afgegeven maar beide kanten zijn vaak nog erg impliciet gebleven over wat er nu werkelijk verwacht wordt. En hoe de verhoudingen nu werkelijk liggen. Wat niet uitkomt of onwelgevallig is wordt verdrongen want het mag de transactie niet in de weg staan. Scoren, binnenhalen. Dat geldt overigens voor beide kanten. Zelfs in een markt met veel aanbod. Want goede mensen blijven schaars. En dan is er het “Ja”. Goed gedaan, felicitaties. Heel begrijpelijk. En knap om in deze tijd een plek te veroveren. Want hoe goed je ook bent, jouw propositie moet maar net kloppen, opvallen en aansluiten. In de netwerken moet je net dat beetje geluk hebben dat je snel op het juiste niveau praat. En men je voor vol aanziet. En wanneer dat gelukt is, klinkt de wel verdiende zucht van verlichting .Ziezo, gelukt, klaar. Helaas, nu komt het op aan op psychological agility zo houd ik mijn outplacementkandidaten voor en dat oefenen we ook. De volgende fase in transitie coaching is aangebroken: OnBoarden. Nu direct de draai maken. Je volgende sale is begonnen en die moet je ook weer verdienen. Niet wachten, direct aan de gang, pro-actief zijn en zorgen dat je in de lead blijft. En dat betekent al die zaken waar ik daarvoor overschreef. Je begint weer opnieuw. Psychological Agility want anders ben je er geweest ….. zonder dat je er überhaupt was.
De Business case voor onboarden? Dat is een no-brainer. De helft van de executives is niet succesvol na 18 maanden. En toch is er maar een minderheid van de organisaties die we in onze snapshot onderzocht hebben die een risico management benadering loslaat op Onboarding. Wat kan je doen om er voor te zorgen dat meneer of mevrouw ook werkelijk de performance gaat leveren die nodig is? In de vorige blog spraken we al over het nut van meten. Vier handvatten om rustig het weekend in te gaan.
1. Manage de verwachtingen en organiseer mentoren die support leveren.
Je gaat elkaar het hofmaken en diepe romantiek naar een nieuwe periode: huwelijk. Veel nieuw benoemden slikken teleurstellingen in, vergeten te checken en toetsen of datgene wat voor de benoeming na de benoeming nog waar is. Het water testen, ballonnen oplaten en sociaal handig de onderhandeling openen. Hetzelfde geldt voor de hiring manager. Tijd aan besteden en direct, open en transparant communiceren. Een mentor kan een hele goede rol spelen door eens goed door te vragen. Een mentor weet hoe de hazen lopen, kent de spelers en met een enigszins ontwikkelde sociale en politieke antenne weet precies wanneer er de kans op ontsporen groot wordt. Simpel , effectief en scoort hoog. Zorg er wel voor dat de mentoren de essenties van onboarding snappen en ervaren hebben. Een intensieve train de trainer doet de rest.
2. “Position Capability” & “Tranisition Capability”
Het is toch verbazend om te zien dat organisaties wel investeren in ‘position capability’ en niet ‘transition capability’. Bijna alle leadership programma’s zijn gefocusseerd op wat je moet doen om op een bepaald niveau succesvol te zijn. Niets mis mee natuurlijk. Maar waarom wordt er zo weinig aandacht besteed aan Onboarden? Het is de persoonlijke change training en hoe je de mensen direct om je heen hierin mee krijgt.
Omgaan met onzekerheid, werkelijk luisteren en kijken, onderhandelen, stakeholders managen, zijn daar een paar hoofdonderdelen in. Een vast onderdeel van uw trainingprogramma’s?
3. Meten is weten.
Institutionaliseer een meetmoment dat van te voren vast staat. We spraken er de vorige keer al over. Levelset Early Feedback is onderdeel van zo’n proces. Met een beperkte investering word je in de gelegenheid gesteld om de risico’s te mitigeren. Daar hoef je geen business case voor te schrijven.
4. Snelle collectieve resultaten
Stuur aan op en plan snel resultaat. In alle succesvolle transities zie je dat er snel resultaten geboekt worden en dat er over gecommuniceerd wordt. ?Uiteraard. Bewijst daar de nieuwe leider zijn of haar succes mee? Nee zeker niet. Van Buuren en Safferstone schrijven hier uitgebreid over in de Harvard Business Review. Op basis van onderzoek onder 5400 leiders constateren zij o.a. dat “Rather than riding roughshod over others to prove themselves, they pursue what we’ve termed “collective quick wins,” accomplishments that make their entire teams look good”. DAt is nog eens eenbusiness case. Het lijkt allemaal zo logisch en toch is de praktijk anders. Zeker in het huidige economische klimaat waarin leiders graag willen bewijzen dat zij de beste keuze zijn geweest. Jammer, je maakt van het team toeschouwers en geen makkers die de kar trekken.
How do I get more time to relax, see things from perspective without being dragged into a game I don’t understand and that wears me out? A senior executive who I will call Peter with a very good track record came to see me the other day. “It feels as if I am forced into a mould but the old recipe doesn’t seem to work anymore”. “The pressure builds up, private life suffers, and my energy runs out”. Does this sound familiar? Or is he the only one? Don’t think so. What to do about it?
What got you there won’t keep you there
Over the years we have learned that there can be quite a number of reasons why stress during onboarding may cause ineffectiveness. Stress in itself is not a bad thing: the adrenaline that goes with it helps you to achieve very challenging goals. But at a certain moment you have passed the tipping point and will discover that adrenaline is not the same as energy and your batteries run flat.
Business performance and quality of private life drops dramatically and we see most managers persisting in old habits that turn out not to be effective during transitions. “What got you there won’t keep you there they are” is an old saying and still very true.
Stress during onboarding
Is there a solution? Over the years we have learned that some managers manage stress far better than others. Why is that? Stress during OnBoarding can have its roots in many different areas. In this blog we limited ourselves to two: onboarding skills (1) and drivers/limiting beliefs (2). Skills are the easy part. There is a lot you can learn about how to onboard successfully. When you recognize situations and become aware of what is going on you have half of the solution in your hands. Will this reduce stress? Off course it does. It amazes us how little is being done in the area of onboarding training. HR professionals: put a couple of day’s onboarding training in the management training programme. Your company and the new leaders will immediately benefit from it.
Drivers and limiting beliefs – the story of Peter
Both experienced and very junior managers find transitions an intense challenge. Most will not admit it though. The anxiety triggers strong behaviours that have proven to be effective in the past. Drivers like: hurry up, be strong, be perfect are but a few. Over the years some have proven to be very effective for you, but some of them are not effective at all during an onboarding process. “I always want to get things going very quickly. When things are on the move I begin to change things”. Working with Peter he discovered that he was always asked to manage turnaround situations. But his new job was not of that nature. Next to this, in his personal value system he couldn’t imagine doing anything else than ‘hurry up’. Clearly what had been driving him for years needed an add on. Scary? Of course, because trying something new in a high pressure situation leads to all kinds of limiting beliefs that held Peter back: “can’t do it, don’t want to operate as some sort of consultant, we need decisions, let’s move on, we have spent enough time on this”. Peter became aware that he was moving into a dead end street and was going nowhere. Stress levels went through the roof.
Life smiles again at you
Together we have worked out what the personal root cause of these beliefs was and what can be added to change them. Systems analysis together with practicing different behaviour have done the rest. Peter started to apply different behaviour and gradually noticed that powers began to shift into a direction where he wanted it to go. He regained impact on the situation, and as a result stress levels dropped dramatically. Peter learned how to pull off different behaviours the moment he is facing something big and new. Life smiles again at Peter.
Thank you all for all your stories how you control unhealthy stress. You were so open and honest about it. In this blog I will take through some aspects of onboarding that can be a big source for stress: expectations. Managing expectations is one of the key pillars of successful onboarding. And when you got that right you are – thank you for this wonderful quote A. – truly ‘Turning Fear into Fuel.
The expectations game
Manage the expectations during onboarding. Make sure that all stakeholders have the same understanding about what can be expected of you. Poorly managed expectations turn out to be the one of the biggest derailers. Based on some of your stories I have picked out three items that relate to the expectations game. It clearly proves that managing expectations is hard work.
Job design: does accountability match with the level of authorization and provide resources?
Make sure you really test the water before entering a new position. Even new leaders who are internally promoted can be a bit naive when entering the C suite. Is it the feeling of achievement that turns them blind? Use what one of the onboarding gurus named the ‘fuzzy front end’ of a new position to your advantage to test the water. As you all work in matrices (and in today’s world you probably will have to deal with at least three leaders) find out who takes what decision? What are typical decisions that you have taken in the last year mister Vanbeeck? Simple questions, ask for examples and if you have your antennas wide open you’ll know what you are up against and can take measures. Challenging the system is one of them. Negotiate changes in job content, resources, and deliverables. If you don’t, stakeholders will expect results that are not achievable and stress will be massive. And after a year it will be your head on the block and not that of somebody else.
Challenging the system is healthy
In the first couple of weeks you will find that reality is probably different from what you thought and what you were told. This is quite normal. Your challenge is to rock the boat in such a way that a) stakeholders understand and accept your analysis and still want to work with you, b) you put yourself in a position to alter the priority of initial goals, the resources, job content in order to be more successful and c) transfer some of the challenges to other colleagues in the matrix. This last one might sound strange but we see this so often in matrix organisations. Some of the challenges have been there for years and everybody was quite happy to pass them on to somebody else. But when you take a close look at the design of your job it might be doubtful if you are in a good position to be successful. Play the ‘challenge the system game’ smart. You have entered a game where everybody plays a role, wants success for the organisation, and quite a few will be very considerate about strengthening their own position and stay away as far as possible from the danger zones.
Challenging the system requires a well thought through plan, smart and subtle communication, plain facts, reading the emotions and being transparent and consistent. Plain facts, rational reasoning are part of it but unfortunately not enough. You want the system to understand and accept your views. And take responsibility for it. You are the outsider moving into their ‘game’. Therefor it is you who has to come up with a couple of smart interventions to use the energy of the system to put everybody where you want them. Just like Aikido. With the new leaders we work very intense to understand the system, power bases, dependencies, mutual interests, success factors, relationships for the new leader to become aware what the options are. Click here to find out more. In those sessions you take a step back and look at what is really happening and who plays what role. Including their own role, drivers and limiting beliefs. Boy, does this reduces stress! “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf” (Jon Kabat-Zinn).
Mutual feedback to synchronize the ‘expectations watch’
The power of feedback is another theme that keeps coming back in your stories. Hurrah. After a few weeks you most have come across flaws in the job design, lacking resources, decisions that were taken without your input but with a lot of impact in your area of responsibility. And also a significant amount of issues relating to customers, products, technology, structure etc. that are almost certainly new to the next level.
Time to reflect and come up with a powerful intervention: feedback. Every successful onboarding framework needs a rock solid feedback process. And that means designing a two way street. Is about what the new leader should do more off, less off and what she should do different. And the same goes towards the leader of the new leader. Tools like Levelset Early Feedback help tremendously to get all the relevant issues on the table, synchronize the ‘expectation watch’ and plan the improvements. To get a wider range of onboarding challenges on the table we run New Leader Assimilation sessions. An outside consultant will help to get everything on the table objectively, including the challenges that relate to the new leaders leader. This is one of the great moments to synchronize the ‘expectations watch’.A very controlled way to challenge the system in the first couple of weeks. And discuss in a three way conversations successful interventions to improve if and when necessary. Improvements in business results and the onboarding process. A win win for both. What else do you want?
How long does it take before a senior exec is delivering what was expected whilst staying fit and healthy at the same time? Three months, six months a year maybe? When I asked a few Chief Human Resource Officers a few weeks ago they all tended to agree on something between 4-8 months. And if you could speed that up with 3-4 months? And maybe reach a higher performance level as well? Without working harder and longer? Can it be done? Read the story of Karen.
Karen was recruited 2 levels below the C suite after a 15 year career in several finance roles in different countries. It was a great opportunity for her that came at exactly the right moment. Her position was transferred to the HQ at a different continent. For a number of reasons Karen had decided not to follow. Within a couple of months something too good to be true landed on her doorstep. After a few interviews it became clear that she was the ideal candidate. As an outsider from a different but related industry she would bring different perspectives on the business model. Her strategic insights were creative, innovative and would complimentary to the rest of the senior team. And next to this, as the age distribution in the finance community was rather skewed towards retirement age, the 45 year old was a potential candidate to take a top position in a few years. Karen felt excited about joining a different industry with a lot of potential, a different professional environment and different people to work with. What could go wrong?
The first couple of weeks were an absolute nightmare. Although the team were nice and supportive, there were no hidden disasters; Karen felt she was totally caged and isolated. She is good observer and equipped with strong analytical skills and creativity. After a few weeks she wanted to share and express here ideas about the several business models, strategic direction, how employees were behaving, and what clients were telling her but there was no opportunity and forum to do this. The cultural and political climate also turned out to be more ambiguous than expected.
The introduction program didn’t help either. It was clearly targeting shop floor and middle management personnel. Karen found the programme a great opportunity to learn and understand what was going on at these levels but felt pretty isolated. She was the only SVP in that group which made everybody silent when she made comments or asked questions. And Karen had tons of ideas, observations that she wanted to share. It became worse when she had found out that the company had two other new hires of the same level. From rumours and hearing him bragging about his achievements in the past she concluded that at least one of them was also on a fast track scheme to the CFO position. That was not how her career path was presented to her. When she asked her boss she was vague and unsure ‘but would ask HR to clarify’. Which they did. And as always the situation was again very different than what she had perceived until now. Karen is the type who fights to make things better. Not just for herself but also for the organisation she worked for. Together with the CHRO she used her very bad experiences to design an OnBoarding programme 100% tailored towards the needs of senior executives. Here are three of the many best practices they have put in their framework.
What is the half-life time of the value team diversity? Team diversity in my book is something that goes far beyond race and gender. The value of diversity in teams in unquestionable but how come so many organisations destroy this value the moment they can lay their hands on it?
This team has to act as a one! We have to be united! I am sure you have heard it all before and also seen new appointed leaders ‘doing a clean-up’ and start with ‘a few good man’ to form a leadership team that can take the organisation to the next level …
Make onboarding a team effort
Is it necessary? It depends. Sometimes you have to. Think about major turnarounds involving reshaping current business models into something new whilst you suffer from devastating financial results. But then, what does the new team look like? Here’s rule one: don’t hire clones. Make sure you appoint the crazy ones, the ones who dare to think and speak outside the box. The other day we discussed with a new appointed leader what kind of leadership journey would bring out the best in the new team. We concluded it all starts with understanding and appreciation the deeper motives of each individual. Why does she work? What is the dream she is pursuing? Exploring and experiencing motives this in any new team is one of the prerequisites for high performance.
Dare to be different
But what if you only appoint one new leader in an existing team? Here’s a thought: dare to be different. Make onboarding not just the responsibility of the new leader. Don’t put him in a programme. Put your whole team in an onboarding programme. Adding one new player changes the whole system. Will you treat the new appointed leader as the ‘the replacement of John’ or will you invest time of the whole team to explore and experience how the entrance of the new player changes the value and performance? Onboarding as a team effort will make the new leader feel very welcome and appreciated. It is not just him fighting into the existing group. It is the group opening up at the start and discuss and adapt the implicit rules of engagement of that team. All it takes is a bit of time from your team and the courage to reflect on team performance. Your bonus? A high performing team. Dare to be different, you will be appreciated for it.
Who calls the shots when you enter a new group? Is it your direct manager, the team, yourself?
Everything in onboarding is geared around creating an environment where expectations are being synchronised, cultural and political assimilation can take place at its best. In fact it is all about influencing the system around you to make sure the new kid on the block can join the sandpit and start playing and become successful. Brent is a senior exec I have been working with for the last couple of months. He was parachuted in quite a hostile environment: sink or swim poor structure and a couple of business challenges that did not allow any flaws. How did he position himself on the monkey rock?
Nobody was to know that he seek onboarding support. Not unusual and it created additional tension for Brent. We had to meet at odd hours. We spend a lot of time assessing the power framework. Force field, stakeholders, expectations, history. How it all was glued together. A new version of images of organisations was written.
I noticed very quickly that Brent consistently missed out on a very vital point: his own ability to change part of the situation. A serious limiting belief causing him a lot of stress. His belief was that others allow you to enter a group. But actually that isn’t the case. Yes, they might be difficult, play a game. But will you let them implicitly and explicitly control who is in or out of the group?
Although the thought was tempting Brent decided to act differently. Authenticity, courage and a couple of smart moves at the beginning were the first the drivers to success. Being aware of your own blind spots, drivers helped him to see the whole picture and make a couple of bold moves. Brent had also found out that his partner had been saying some of it for a number of years. Should good leaders spend more time with their families? How long have we known this? Or is it the 2015 insight?