During a recent coaching session, an executive leader shared that he was planning to make a promotion to fill a gap in his executive team, but he had concerns regarding the readiness of the individual. Briefly, Tom (the candidate) had served as a division-level leader for the past 4 years. He was highly knowledgeable about the product lines, skilled in solving quality issues, respected by members of his department leadership team, had been with the organization for nearly 10 years, and was a very likable person.
The question posed by the leader was based upon a previous experience in which an internal promotion caused negative disruption within the organization, and ultimately, the organization lost both the leader and the expertise that left with him.
The question posed was, “How do I prevent a repeat occurrence?”
The short answer is, “Get Tom your playbook.” The long answer is, “You need to onboard him into the role the same way you would a valued employee new to the organization.”
Acknowledge that Tom understands the mission, vision, values, culture, and core customer profile. He may also have a working familiarity with other leaders within the organization. This knowledge will serve to accelerate his acclimation into the role.
What you need to appreciate is that his frame of reference has been formed from a very different perspective, and it will be important to bridge that perspective to expectations associated with his new role.
Early in the process, you may want to assess his leadership attributes including the purpose for him choosing to accept the role and his passion for the work. These should align with yours and the needs of the organization.
During your initial conversations, you will want to impress upon Tom your expectation that he spend time learning the role, studying team dynamics, and determine how he can best contribute from his new position. You should share your expectation that he put in the extra time to build rapport with the teams, align priorities to the strategic plan, and provide clarity in direction to those he supports.
Consider placing him immediately on a leadership development plan. Identify key competencies he will need to demonstrate over time. Provide access to other leaders within the organization who can provide guidance and mentorship, as well as identify outside networking and learning opportunities to expand his skillset. Don’t presume anything until it is consistently demonstrated.
The final piece of advice I offered was this, “Tom’s success is a reflection of your leadership. Do your best to provide opportunities for him to learn, develop, and demonstrate success in the role.”