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    Research Points to Five Key Transition Tasks

    The following is an excerpt from "Onboarding Isn't Enough" (Harvard Business Review, June 2017), co-authored by Genesis Co-Founder, Michael Watkins. To read the full article, follow the link at the bottom of the news item.


    "In our research and decades of experience working with executives, we have identified major tasks that leaders must undertake in their first few critical months. These are the areas in which they need the greatest integration support:


    1) Diagnosing the business situation

    Even with the best possible exchange of information during the recruiting process, any leader in a new role (especially an outsider) will have an incomplete picture of the business—its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A new leader builds his or her credibility by learning rapidly so they can focus on the right issues, make good early decisions, and get some early wins.


    2) Taking charge of the team

    New leaders naturally focus on their direct reports at the outset—they know they must quickly confirm or adjust the team’s composition and goals… The window to make big changes in the team closes rapidly. It’s valuable to allow a new leader to take a fresh look at the talent without coloring his or her view in advance; but it’s equally valuable to share insights about individual team members’ performance and development.


    3) Aligning with stakeholders

    New leaders need to gain the support of people over whom they have no direct authority, including their bosses, their peers, and other colleagues. Because they arrive with little or no relationship capital, they have to invest energy in building connections—and clearly signal that they know it’s a priority. After identifying the most important stakeholders outside their teams, they must take time to understand their colleagues’ expectations and develop a plan for how and when to connect with people.


    4) Understanding the culture

    To have the right impact, new hires must gain insight the values, norms, and guiding assumptions that define “how to get things done” in the organization. Missing cues early on can negatively affect how others perceive a new leader’s intentions and capabilities. The executive must also walk a fine line between working within the culture and seeking to change it.


    5) Defining strategic direction

    Finally, the new leader must start to shape strategy. If a new strategy is required, then other elements of the organizational system—such as structure, governance, systems, and processes for talent management and performance measurement—often must also be transformed to execute it. Regardless, the new leader must be clear about the path ahead.


    Together these five transition tasks present a daunting challenge. Stumbles in any area can lead to serious problems or even outright derailment. Effective integration is much more likely when leaders understand—before they start in their new roles—how much progress they’ll need to demonstrate in each area during the first few months."

    Related Reading:

    "Onboarding Isn't Enough" (Harvard Business Review, June 2017) 

    The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels