Emerson Sets Leaders Up for Success With The First 90 Days

Posted by Genesis

Genesis would like to share a client success story with you, the details of which were published in the June 2017 issue of Chief Learning Officer. We are proud to have partnered with Terrence Donahue, Emerson’s Corporate Director of Learning, in creating a customized “onboarding operating system” based on the The First 90 Days® Transition Roadmap™ Framework to support leaders in transition. Please enjoy the client story excerpt below and follow the link at the bottom of the page for the full article.

Introduction

Emerson prides itself on its leadership culture. The $22 billion global manufacturer of electrical and electromechanical products headquartered in St. Louis built its culture around giving young leaders many opportunities to challenge themselves. Managers are encouraged to take on new roles to stretch their skills and expand their company knowledge. “Emerson likes to promote from within,” said Steve Pelch, Emerson’s executive vice president of organizational planning and development. “We value varied experiences, and it is common for senior management to hold five to 10 different roles during the course of their careers.” Moving leaders into assignments in different business units and geographies helps them build their confidence and their management style. It also can make them vulnerable at critical points in their careers, said Terrence Donahue, the company’s corporate director of learning. When he took over this role four years ago, the first thing he did was review the center’s portfolio of leadership training options. He noticed a glaring omission. While the company had a diverse selection of talent development and leadership training courses, there was nothing to help leaders in transition. Donahue said that put the leaders and the company at risk. “The first few months in a new leadership role can hold incredible potential but it can also be incredibly perilous.”

 

The First 90 Days

When people move into new leadership positions they are often left to their own devices. As a result, they may flounder before finding their bearings. Most of the time they succeed, but without the right support, those first few months can be chaotic for leader and team. “If you approach transitions in a more thoughtful manner, you can accelerate learning while minimizing disruption,” Donahue said. To make his case, Donahue’s team analyzed performance data from business units across the company and found that 22 percent of Emerson’s underperforming sites directly correlated to failed leadership transitions. That was enough to support development of new skill building into the leadership curriculum. Donahue had read Michael Watkins’  The First 90 Days, which lays out strategies to help leaders conquer transition challenges, and get up to speed faster and smarter in new roles. He used that book as a framework, working with Watkins to develop a customized program, called Successful Leadership Transitions. “This is not a workshop,” Donahue explained. “It is an operating system for how leaders can manage and lead going forward.” After running pilot sessions, Donahue’s team rolled out the program in February 2016. At the heart of this system is a one-day event, which all leaders at Emerson are encouraged to participate in either to prepare for a new position, or while in the first weeks of their transition. The event is built to give leaders time and space to define their short- and long-term goals for the new role, identify peers they need to connect with and establish a plan of action for the first few months. “Most leaders heading into a job transition have some advanced worries,” Pelch said. “This gives them a chance to plan their strategy and gain confidence.”

 

‘I Would Have Gotten There, Eventually’

Participants start by identifying what type of leadership situation they are moving into based on the STARS options: start-up, turnaround, accelerated growth, realignment or sustainable success. “This step is important because each requires a different leadership approach,” Donahue said. Then they go through a variety of exercises that include mapping the skills and information they need to be successful in the role, identifying gaps and prioritizing tasks and projects to help them secure early wins. Later in the day they build a business plan for their teams, and figure out which company stakeholders they need to connect with to find guidance and build plan support. After the program, participants are expected to go back to their managers to review their action plans for the coming 90 days. “Going through the program provides a lot of aha moments,” said Bret Larson, director of talent management and analytics, who completed it last year when he moved into his current role. The most impactful part for him was creating a list of peers he needed to connect with and why. “I probably already knew it in the back of my head, but we actually scheduled those meetings as part of the program,” he said. “It was extremely helpful.” At the end of the day, he also had a formal 90-day action plan to help him focus on specific objectives, like reducing social recruiting spend without negatively affecting the company’s ability to recruit. “I would have gotten there eventually, but it probably would have taken weeks instead of days,” he said.

Read "Leaders Deserve a Seamless Transition"  in the June 2017 Issue of Chief Learning Officer Magazine.