Leadership Development

Transition Coaching Reaps Rewards

Lisa Danels
published on November 12, 2018

Everyday leaders are transitioning into new leadership roles and this can prove to be a real test for even the most experienced executives. 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%, their intent to stay by drops by 20% and their level of engagement drops by 20%. So, leader integration is not a luxury but a business imperative.

Companies investing beyond on-boarding and into integration is not common practice, unfortunately, as we saw in Egon Zehnder’s online survey of 588 executives at the VP level and above who had joined new companies in the past few years. The participants represented 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 that 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—a big problem when you consider that more than 80% of this fortunate minority thought such support had made a major difference in their early impact. To read the full study click on this Harvard link “Onboarding isn’t enough”.

Every time leaders transition there is a period of vulnerability, which when addressed reduces the risk of failure, but more importantly allows for accelerated leader development. This is quite significant when you hear year-over-year the same development gaps for some of the best talents. During these moments of vulnerability, when given the right support, leaders can have major breakthroughs that would otherwise be impossible with most executives busy and demanding schedules. Think of it as a window opportunity where leaders find themselves in the “beginners mind.” During, this short window, leaders are more willing to try new things which can lead to rapid development.

For more senior leaders and critical roles, where impact of failure is higher for companies, working with a dedicated coach can provide leaders the individualized support they need to be successful. Today, there is increased expectation and challenge for leaders, less time to make an impact, and pressure to deliver the right initiatives and build strong and engaging relationships quickly. With this, the first 100 days of a new role have to be powerful and positive.

What is Transition Coaching?

Providing a Transition coach in the short-term, for four to six months, which is focused and designed to accelerate and challenge leaders. The leader and the transition coach work together to develop a transition roadmap that will define critical actions that must take place during the first 100 days to establish credibility, secure quick wins, and position the leader and their team for sustained success.

Why is transition coaching important?

The dangerous traps new leaders can sometimes find themselves in is trying to prove themselves, so they push too hard or take immediate actions without really fully understanding the context or challenges upon them. Another big trap is thinking you have all the answers then alienating your peers and your team. The coaching sessions allow for leaders to be more self-reflective, which in turns reduces the number of missteps a leader can encounter.

How does it work?

The transition coaching relationship includes regular meetings with the new leader as well as ongoing feedback. As part of the process, the coach conducts “pulse checks” with the key players, including the manager, direct reports, peers and other key stakeholders, after six to eight weeks to gather early impressions so that the new leader can make a course correction if needed. The 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 being cost effective for organizations.

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 one of the big Pharma companies. The previous leader, was very strong on the science but very weak in his leadership skills and after many years of neglect and lack of investment the function was severely weakened. The new leader sized up the situation very quickly and knew quite rapidly what needed to be done from a business and leadership perspective. However, he had a leadership issue that was a legacy from the old leader. Since, the old leader was so ineffective, all his direct reports would work around him and go straight to the CEO of the division for big decisions regarding investments. As a new leader, he felt undermined by his manager and needed help to navigate the situation. As the coach you interface with both the manager and the leader. In this case, the coach was able to talk to the manager, during a priorities discussion, to discuss how to best setup the new leader for success. Immediately, if anyone went to the CEO for a decision, he sent them back to the new leader. This problem was quickly addressed and allowed the new leader to establish his legitimate leadership role in the organisation. This then allowed us to focus on his leadership presence and what was required when a leader steps into a bigger role. If this issue had not been addressed early in his tenure, it could have taken the new leader a much longer time to establish himself with his new team.