The statistics about failure or inadequate success experienced by executives in new leadership positions are well known by now. Estimates of outright failure in the first 18 months range from 38% to over half, and many more executives fail to be as successful as was predicted in the hiring or promotion phase. In most cases, these are leaders who have demonstrated prior success and who have shown high intelligence, appropriate initiative, and considerable business savvy. Why does this happen? By Douglas Riddle, Ph.D.
It happens because leaders in changed environments (whether due to promotion, new hiring, merger, or restructuring) don’t adequately assess the needs of the changed situation. Unfortunately, the actions they take are well-designed to solve the problems they don’t face. When executives try to repeat or rehearse what worked before, they fail to see the critical variations that demand new solutions. Fundamentally, leaders in new situations don’t apply good learning practices; consequently, they fail to learn and they act to fail. Effective programs of executive integration focus resources on accelerating the learning of leaders in situations of change, whether the new challenge is seen as a start-up, turn-around, realignment or an opportunity to sustain existing success.
When leaders in a new situation don’t build the right kind of foundation early in their incumbency, they may never get the right traction. The consequences are sad because they represent a serious waste of talent: executives who never fulfill their early promise, who get distracted from their charter to lead, and some who derail or fail. Fortunately, many executives have the guidance of wise counsel and the support of sophisticated organizations. Many others muddle through to success because they will not give up. However, organizations can increase the number of leaders who become powerfully effective, who find their work environment stimulating and creative, and who can elicit the best from their organizations by equipping them with resources and programs that maximize their integration.
The right resources will give executives clear measures of success, tools to improve their learning agility, and guidance on the factors that will build a foundation of success. This model provides information you can use to design a successful transition process.
These processes and results are captured in a CCL model of executive integration. It builds on the Center’s recognition that leadership is responsible for creating direction, gaining alignment, and inspiring commitment. These results cannot be achieved in the absence of the development of credibility. In what follows, the critical tasks and processes needed to equip executives for rapid movement into high performance will be explored based on the model presented here. This model assumes the involvement of a competent transitions coach to assist the leader in shaping an integration process tailored to the individual leader and the needs of the organization.
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