Inevitably executives who fail to onboard successfully into new jobs do so for one of three reasons. They don’t fit. They don’t deliver. Or they don’t adjust to changes down the road. Today Show Executive Producer Jamie Horowitz got fired 60 days into the job because “this is not the right fit.”
The Three Classic Onboarding Landmines: Fit. Deliver. Adjust.
Fit. No one will follow anyone anywhere anytime until they have earned the right to lead. This is why new leaders must converge into their new organizations before they try to evolve them. The heart of BRAVE leadership is relationships. You can’t lead until you can connect.
Deliver. Almost everyone tells new leaders they hire to take their time and focus on the long term. These people mean it when they say it. But then reality settles in and they push their new leaders to deliver over the short-term. It’s not an either-or choice. New leaders must deliver early wins on the way to bigger, longer-term wins.
Adjust. Things change. Leaders that don’t adjust to changes down the road get run over by those changes. They key here is to figure out if the changes have temporary or enduring, minor or major impacts. If they are minor and temporary, ignore them; minor and enduring, evolve; major and temporary, manage the crisis or opportunity; major and enduring, hit a reset button.
When a new leader fails, whomever you ask why they failed will blame the other party.
“He didn’t fit.”
“She couldn’t deliver.”
Or, from the failed leader’s perspective:
“They weren’t whom they pretended to be when they hired me.”
“They didn’t give me the support and resources I needed to deliver.”
Whose fault is it when a new leader fails? Everyone’s. Shame on the organization for not onboarding the new leader right. Shame on the new leader for not taking charge of their own onboarding and getting a head start, managing the message and building the team.
In CNN’s Brian Stelter Inside the ouster of the ‘Today’ show boss, Stelter describes how Horowitz “criticized some of the co-hosts” while he was doing his initial listening tour. Not surprisingly they fought back.
As the New York Times’ Bill Carter put it,
It was widely accepted inside NBC News that Mr. Horowitz had been brought in to push “Today” back to the top. The staff on the show had been expecting that he would institute changes…
In situations like this (and actually in all situations), people faced with a new leader have only one question, “What does this mean for me?”
Where Horowitz stepped on the fit landmine was in seeding potential changes before he had earned the right to do so. It seems like he was doing too much talking (and criticizing) during his ‘listening tour’ and not enough listening. He got the booby prize and paid the price.
Listening Tour Prizes
– Last place: using initial meetings to pre-sell ideas
– Basics: focusing initial meetings on listening and learning
– First prize: embracing the idea that initial meetings are all about building relationships. Everything else (including learning about the business) is a bonus.
Contributors, Watchers, Detractors
Change agents face three types of audiences.
– Contributors who have already embraced the change. These people want the new leader to succeed and will help.
– Detractors are against the change. They either feel threatened themselves or see their colleagues threatened. They will resist the change.
– Watchers reserve judgment. They will wait and see how things play out before deciding whether to assist or resist the new leader.
The basic prescription is to lead with the contributors and get them to enroll some of the watchers while getting the detractors out of the way.
Instead, Horowitz created new detractors (Morales and Geist) who enrolled watchers (like Lauer) in their resistance.
The lesson is to converge into the organization before trying to evolve it. Fit. Deliver. Adjust.
By George Bradt