Sink or Swim: Challenging Times for New Executive Leaders

Agency support of career executives is critical.

You’ve finally made it! It’s your first day on the job as an executive leader and you may not realize it yet, but you are about to fail. This is the unfortunate outcome for 16 percent of Senior Executive Service members that were unsuccessful in completing their 1-year probationary period. Surprisingly, their failure is not due to a lack of expertise, motivation, or engagement; most were not offered an effective onboarding program. The Corporate Leadership Council found that there are five typical reasons that executives don’t succeed:

  • They fail to establish a cultural fit
  • They fail to build teamwork with staff and peers
  • They are unclear about the performance expected of them
  • They lack political savvy
  • Their organizations do not have a strategic, formal process to assimilate executives into the organization

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) realizes the importance of effectively onboarding senior executives so they are set-up for success rather than failure. The OPM collaborated with the Senior Executives Association (SEA) and the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) to talk about what a productive executive onboarding program looks like. As a result of their efforts, OPM published a manual for agencies to reference when designing a program personalized for their new executives. The manual addresses the current problems with onboarding Federal leaders, why they fail, and how they should adjust their existing program.

Leaders that are not prepared for what challenges they are faced with in their new role have an effect on more than whether they stay in their role or not. Ill-prepared leaders cost companies millions of dollars each year by negatively impacting employee retention, customer satisfaction, and employee productivity. However, many change initiators fail to realize this impact and choose to do nothing to remedy the problem. The Ken Blanchard Companies has come up with a free online calculator that measures the cost of doing nothing. This tool has helped companies realize that the longer they wait to make these important changes, the more ineffective their agency becomes.

Learn more about common challenges that today’s leaders face.

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  1. #1 by johnagno (@johnagno) on October 24, 2011 - 10:18 am

    The percentage of new hires who fail within the first 18 months is 46%. Only 19% of new hires achieve “unequivocal success” within 18 months of hire. Failures tend to be attitudinal, such as lack of coachability, rather than lack of aptitude.

    Leaders in new positions often fail for a few common reasons: due to unclear or outsized expectations, a failure to build partnerships with key stakeholders, a failure to learn the company, industry or the job itself fast enough, a failure to determine the process for gaining commitments from direct reports and a failure to recognize and manage the impact of change on people. Onboarding coaching of the newly recruited or promoted executive can turnaround this high rate of failure.

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