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Internal hires need just as much support as external ones

April 6, 2016
Borderless Leadership

Adrian had been working steadily toward this promotion for years. But just four months into his new job, as a business unit leader at a large specialty chemicals and plastics manufacturer, he was struggling with the challenges of handling a global business with more than 3000 employees.

He had spent his entire 14-year career at the company, had worked hard, and had rapidly climbed the ranks in sales and marketing. The culmination was his promotion to business unit leader for Plastic Resins, one of the company’s best-performing units. He inherited a strong team with a proven track record.

But Adrian was surprised at how hard he was finding it to climb the learning curve. There was a big difference between leading functional groups, as he had in the past, versus running a business unit. The people Adrian was leading now knew much more about their functions than he did, and he didn’t feel confident in his ability to discern their strengths and weaknesses. The scope and complexity of the problems at the unit leader level made him uncertain how to allocate his time and he got overloaded. He knew he needed to delegate more, but he wasn’t clear yet about which tasks and assignments he could safely leave to others.

Like most executives making internal moves within their companies, Adrian got virtually no support for making this challenging transition into his new role. Had he been hired from the outside into the same company he would have received intensive onboarding support, including briefings on the business, help connecting to key stakeholders, and transition coaching.

I call the sorts of internal moves Adrian experienced “inboarding,” a term I coined to highlight my concern that onboarding – the process of integrating new hires – was receiving a disproportionate share of attention and resources in most companies.

Far too often, leaders making internal moves are left to “sink or swim” in their new roles. This is true regardless of how ready they are or how big the leaps are they are making. This lack of support not only results in unnecessary failures (and their associated costs), it is a huge missed opportunity to accelerate transitions so leaders create more value more quickly.

While the focus in recent years on giving more support to onboarding managers and executives unquestionably has produced excellent results – such as reduction in new-hire failure rates from 40% to 10%-15% in many companies – the problem of ineffective inboarding has been ignored. This is surprising and unfortunate, because my research and experience shows that inboarding transitions are much more frequent, and often just as challenging as joining a new company.

> Read the full article on the Harvard Business Review website

By Michael Watkins

Source: HBR

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