The moment a person (anyone: yes, even you) assumes a new leadership
position, a study in paradox begins to play out: to be successful
in your transition you must focus on learning about the new organization
and your role, but the expectation is to quickly take charge, be
productive and demonstrate your worth. You should build alliances
while not being seen as overly political or creating favorites.
You must implement needed changes to improve the organization, but
not devalue what already exists, showing respect for the history
and culture. You must draw on past experience, but don't let your
past blind you to new realities. And, the number one paradox for
a newly placed leader -- act confident, be decisive and demonstrate
your authority, but seek input and feedback and go slowly to build
credibility. How newly placed leaders deal with these contradictory
expectations largely determines their success and failure.
Your fate in a new leadership role is, for better or worse, typically
sealed within your first three months. If you fail to establish
a foothold for yourself, it may take 12 to 18 months before you
know it, but the organization knows it. You are being observed and
evaluated from the moment of your first job interview. From your
first day, members of the organization are judging whether or not
you ''get it'', and making decisions about the ways they
will work to support or undermine your success.
A number of recent studies have identified the success and failure
factors for a newly placed leader. The research shows that even
the most skilled executives face many difficulties and challenges
during the transition and integration phase of a new position. At
a minimum they are slowed down by the obstacles and all too many
completely fail to successfully adjust to their new situation.
The good news is that there is a process to help newly placed leaders
to sidestep the obstacles and move forward faster. This process
of transition and integration is called onboarding. The process
provides structured support for an extended period, typically four
to six months; it is not your typical brief orientation. A well
thought out onboarding process provides the tools, resources and
support network (i.e. internal ''partners'' and external
coach) to ensure that the new executive is in alignment with the
organization's expectations and that he/she builds momentum fast.
Onboarding processes are being developed and implemented throughout
the corporate business sector. This reality is just now gaining
the attention of the credit union industry. With all of the changes
in senior leadership positions, credit unions can certainly benefit
from a process that helps its new leaders become full contributors
faster, better and with fewer destabilizing effects.