So you just took over the Communications function. Maybe you were brought in to inject some new energy, or chart new waters, or fill the clownishly big shoes of a beloved predecessor. Maybe you’re hailed as the one riding in to set right a series of unfortunate events. Whatever your circumstances or level of enthusiasm, you’re doubtless also feeling a bit of pressure, and rightfully so—from what we see, most companies don’t do a great job of setting their transitioning leaders up for success. The track record on transitioning leaders is clear: Many of them fail spectacularly.
But Really? Spectacularly?
Yes. We’re serious. Spectacular is a big word, so let us back it up with a big number. Research shows that 46% of leaders underperform during the course of their transition. That doesn’t mean they’re not full of great ideas and doing all they can to move things in the right direction. It means that somewhere in the environment, there’s an element of being left to their own devices that requires them to figure things out on their own and in some ways fend for themselves, and it’s severely hampering them in their efforts.
As with most spectacular fails, there is severe collateral damage: when it takes you longer to get up to speed, your team lags to the tune of a 15% drop in productivity. All of this is in line with our work we’ve done on change management—we know that after a big change, it takes an average of 24 months for an employee to get back to a full level of engagement. That doesn’t mean a person isn’t super-bright and working hard. It means that it simply takes a while to make meaningful connections and establish relationships and figure out how to be most productive and most efficient. Surely all of these challenges are only compounded with increasing responsibility—after all, a body can only do so much so quickly.
Avoiding the Fail Whale
So how to avoid becoming just another bleak statistic? We’d recommend you take advantage of our new CEB Leadership Transition Support services. CEB has done extensive research into what it takes to make a transition highly successful, and we’ve found that providing more effective support through the early going makes the difference.
Most companies offer a version of one-off support to a leader for roughly the first three months, at which point the onboarding plan tends to reach the bottom of the sheet of paper—and you’re on your own. What our research shows is that we need to create a support sweet spot— we need a repeatable transition process which is also highly tailored to the new leader.
And It’s All Part of Your Membership
We can help you with targeted support at three levels:
We can help you size up your transition environment and take steps to adapt quickly to your new role. We can help you:
- Measure your transition risk — we’ll help you assess both the situation and your leadership style to best position yourself for success.
- Understand cultural drivers of success
- Define your goals
- Prioritize quick wins with this tool
2) Your new team
Your direct reports play a critical role in helping your ramp up quickly. We’ll help them:
3) Your manager and peers
This can’t be treated as simply the transition of an individual. You’re all in this thing together, and you need that team to help you diagnose your function’s capabilities and make sure everyone is clear on cross-functional support and expectations.
We can help you:
- Strengthen the new leader’s support network
- Diagnose functional capabilities
- Align the new leader with business partners
Please check out our CEB Leadership Transition Support topic center for a little more color, and please drop us a note if you’d like to take advantage of support that we know can make a big difference for your career AND your company.
Because did we mention the punch line? Getting this transition stuff right can generate a 3-5% increase in revenue. That’s a pretty great way to celebrate your new tenure.
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