Transition Coaching Reaps Rewards

Every day leaders transition into new leadership roles, and, even for the most experienced executive, this can prove to be a real test. According CEB [1],46.3% of leaders underperform in their first year because they don’t effectively transition into their roles and achieve full integration. “Integration” suggests a more aspirational goal—doing what it takes to make the new person a fully functioning member of the team as quickly and smoothly as possible. This lack of effective integration impacts a leader’s direct reports by decreasing their performance by up to 15%. The reports’ intent to stay drops by 20% and their level of engagement drops by 20%. So, leader integration is not a luxury but a business imperative. 

46.3%of leaders underperform in their first year because they don’t effectively transition into their roles and achieve full integration. 

Unfortunately, companies rarely invest beyond rapid on-boarding. This takeaway was highlighted in Egon Zehnder’s online survey of 588 executives at the VP level and above who had more recently joined new companies. These executives worked at both publicly traded and privately-owned companies across Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia. One-third of them were in the C-suite. Almost 60% reported it took them six months—and close to 20% said it took more than nine months—to have a full impact in their new roles. Less than a third said they had received any meaningful support during their transitions. This highlights an incredible business issue, especially when you consider how more than 80% of this fortunate minority thought such support had made a major difference in their early impact. Read the full Harvard here: “Onboarding isn’t enough”.

Every time there is a transition of leadership, there is a period of vulnerability. This is quite significant. However, when this vulnerability is addressed, the risk of failure is reduced. More importantly, it allows for accelerated leader development. During these moments of vulnerability, when given the right support, leaders can have major breakthroughs that would otherwise be impossible with their demanding schedules. Consider it a window of opportunity where leaders find themselves in the “beginner’s mind.” During this brief window, leaders are more willing to try new things that can lead to rapid development. 

Today, with the increased expectation for leaders who need to make an impact under time pressures and deliver the effective initiatives quickly, their first 100 days in a new role needs to be powerful and positive. For senior leaders and critical roles, where failure has a larger impact, working with a dedicated coach can provide leaders the individualized support they need to be successful. 

What is Transition Coaching?

Transition Coaching provides new leaders with a short-term coach. During this four-to-six-month period, a leader works with a transition coach to develop a transition roadmap to defines critical actions that must take place during the first 100 days of the new position. This helps the new leader to establish credibility, secure quick wins, and position everyone for sustained success.  

Why is transition coaching important?

Oftentimes, new leaders feel they have something to prove. This is a dangerous trap. It can lead to pushing too hard or taking immediate actions without enough consideration. Another big trap happens when they believe they have all the answers, and they risk alienation from their peers and team. The coaching sessions allow for leaders to be more self-reflective, reducing the number of missteps a leader may encounter. 

How does it work?

The transition coaching relationship includes regular meetings with the new leader as well as ongoing feedback. After six to eight weeks, the coach conducts “pulse checks” with key players (managers, direct reports, peers, other key stakeholders, etc.) to gather early impressions of the new leader. The leader can then make a course correction if needed.

This individualized approach to transition coaching meets the specific needs of the leader and the business. For all other leaders, a combination of group coaching, webinars, and self-directed learning can prove to be very impactful while also being cost effective for organisations. 

Transition Coaching Reaps Rewards – Case Example

A new leader, who was deemed a high potential, was given a role heading up a research organisation in a big Pharma company. The previous leader had greater strengths in science arena but was weaker in leadership skills. After many years of neglect and lack of investment, the function within the company was severely weakened.

The new leader sized up the situation very quickly. They knew what needed to be done from a business and leadership perspective. However, there was a lingering leadership issue. Since prior leader had been ineffective, their direct reports did functional work arounds, going straight to the divisional CEO for critical investment decisions.

The new leader felt undermined by his manager and needed help navigating the situation. As part of the process, the transition coach interacted the CEO and discussed how to best “setup” the new leader for success. Following this coaching meeting, if a team member went to the CEO for a decision, the CEO sent them back to the new leader.

This problem was quickly addressed and allowed the new leader to establish their legitimate leadership role in the organisation. If this issue had not been addressed early on, it could have taken the new leader a much longer time to establish themselves with the team. 

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