How to Acclimate Someone New to Your Leadership Team

How to Acclimate Someone New to Your Leadership Team
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Have You Ever Had to Acclimate Someone New to Your Leadership Team?
Any time you add a new member to any team, but especially a senior leadership team, the interpersonal dynamics and team’s forward momentum can be affected. To maintain leadership team momentum, new connections need to be forged, team norms and roles may need to shift, and a strategic realignment process usually must occur.

To acclimate someone new to your leadership team, typically the objective is to make sure that the new leader settles in as smoothly as possible so that you keep everything moving in the desired direction.

Recent Team Research
Unfortunately, recent research by McKinsey, found:

  • 68% of leader transitions falter on issues related to an organization’s culture and people
  • Only 32% of global leaders feel that their organizations have what it takes to support new leaders

Stages of Team Development
The most commonly used framework for a team’s stages of development is Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing framework from the 1960s.  Each stage of team development has its own noticeable feelings and behaviors and provides a helpful framework for recognizing a team’s behavioral patterns, needs, and next steps.  Just remember that anytime you add a new leader to your team, the entire team reverts back to the Forming stage.

This is important because the Forming stage is characterized by excitement, eagerness, and high positive expectations, curiosity, probing, and anxiety. 

To Acclimate Someone New to Your Leadership Team
To set the entire team up for success, ensure that you start with psychological team safety and strategic clarity.  Our organizational alignment research found that strategic team clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing leadership teams.  Before you begin to DO the work, make sure that you define and agree upon HOW the work will get done using a team charter that includes team goals, structure, roles, success metrics, and norms. 

This enables team members to build the trust required to collectively perform within a common construct and decision making process for success. Even though everyone wants leaders to perform now, smart leaders “go slow to go fast” and invest the time required to set the new team member and the overall team up for success before they focus on task accomplishment.

Assume that the new leadership team member is somewhat disoriented but eager to earn respect, be liked, and contribute meaningfully to the team. As their boss, you can significantly help ease the new leader’s transition. In addition to co-creating a team charter, here are four ways backed by data from our leadership simulation assessments that you can support them — all focused on cultivating team trust, connection, and clarity:

  1. Share Who You Are
    Welcome them and help orient them to who you are and your role on the team. Ask about what they like to do both personally and professionally and share your own leadership story. The goal is to demonstrate caring and authentic curiosity. You want to begin to make a meaningful connection that helps the newcomer feel more comfortable with you and the mission of the team.
  2. Describe the Team Culture
    We know from assessing organizational cultures that every team has its unwritten rules — the way work truly gets done day-by-day. Though there is likely a message around culture that exists for the organization, is that the culture that prevails on the team?

    Help the “newbie” avoid the pitfalls of behaving in ways that are misaligned with the corporate culture. For example, is it important that they arrive on the dot of a scheduled meeting or do sessions usually begin 10 minutes before the published start? Does the team flex to accommodate remote work or are you expected to be on site every work day? Are divergent views welcomed or discouraged? Help the newcomer to navigate the unique cultural waters of your team.
  3. Be Consistent About What Matters Most
    As a leader, it is imperative that you model the way in terms of “Being” and “Doing.”  Set the example for the kind of behaviors and performance you want to nurture, and the new leader is much more likely to exhibit the same behaviors.  Your words and actions will define your newcomer’s attitude, behavior, and expectations.
  4. Debrief Regularly
    Check in regularly to see how they are getting along and if they have any questions around team norms and expectations. Facilitate introductions elsewhere in the organization to those who can provide additional context and support.

The Bottom Line
Though the benefits of making sure that you acclimate someone new to your leadership team are high, success stories still appear to be too infrequent. With all of the effort required to hire the right leaders for key roles, do not overlook the help and support they need to transition to their new role.  To move from Forming to Performing, invest the time and resources to get it right.

To learn more about how to acclimate someone new to your leadership team, download 6 Traps That Can Sabotage Success as a New Leader

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