The CEO Talent Fitness Plan: The Onboarding CEO

The CEO Talent Fitness Plan - The Onboarding CEO

There is an old joke about the man who dies and visits St. Peter in purgatory.


“Where would you like to spend eternity?” he asks.


“Not sure,” the man replies.


“Well, how about you spend a day in heaven and a day in hell and then decide.”


So, the man goes to heaven and spends the day lounging around the clouds, playing harps, and feeling bliss. The next day he goes to hell, which looks and feels like those Caribbean all-inclusive resort commercials. Beautiful people. Beautiful music. Beautiful magic. Amazing!


“I’m surprised,” he tells St. Peter “but I think I want to spend eternity in hell.” And down he goes.


When he arrives, the scene is different. The lush beach and conga-line has been replaced with all seven levels described by Dante. An inferno, indeed! Upon seeing the devil, the man asks “I don’t understand! Yesterday during my visit, this was the greatest place in the universe. Today it’s the worst. What happened?”


The devil looks at him with a perverse smile and says, “Yesterday we were recruiting. Today, you work here.”


 How many of us have felt that way after joining a new organization? Welcome to the world of onboarding. It may be the eighth level of hell, had Dante been a senior executive.


Today, the complexity that often greets new talent requires insight, mentoring, an understanding of tribe, help, and in many cases, protection. Hiring new talent without effective onboarding is like sending a new puppy outside with the idea, “She’ll figure it out.”


Multiple research studies have argued the failure rate of new executives exceeds 50%. An HBR study of private equity operating partners found that over 50% of them did not believe they had the talent required to meet their business thesis. We have an epidemic on our hands and it is directly impacting business performance.


 So, the question is how to improve your odds and realize a return on the investment you’re making in your new executive. When a new employee fails, it usually isn’t about technical or functional capabilities. Even great and previously successful executives fail when joining new organizations. Why? It usually comes down to fit. And fit can be addressed through intentional and effective onboarding.


To improve your success rate for new talent, it is vital that the CEO can provide specific actions and expectations. Without a solid and intentional plan, the probability is high that your onboarding is fractured, ineffective, and perhaps even non-existent. How successful have your recent additions been?


Do you want to better understand your company’s onboarding performance? Here is an easy approach.


Describe in detail how you onboard new employees. Or, find out how you effectively educate, mentor, train and groom new employees to be their best. You need details.


Ask these questions to three recent hires about their experience in joining the company:


  • What did we do to help you become an effective member of our organization?


  • What did it take for you to understand how to effectively integrate with your team?


  • How could we have improved that process?


  • What did we do to mentor you in understanding the tribe, its rituals, expectations, strengths, and shortcomings?


  • What kind of training did you need in order to hit-the-ground-running? How effective were we in giving that to you?


  • How much enthusiasm and validation did we give you after joining us?


  • What are the significant expectations of your four biggest stakeholders? How do you know?


  • What can we do to onboard new hires more effectively?


I am not suggesting that CEOs become human resource executives, but providing clear direction requires specific understanding.


Talent Fitness within any CEO does require that she or he is informed and aware. When any significant business strategy or process is shrugged off, the results will speak for themselves. Find out how new talent is integrated into your organization. Many of you will find a significant need for improvement. Others will already know how well you are mastering this game.


Regardless, you don’t want your talent investments to feel like the company they joined is different from the one that recruited them.



Brought to you by Jackson Lynch, President – 90 Consulting

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