Why New Leaders Derail

 In Coaching, Leadership, Onboarding, Organizational Development

Whether you’re a new leader or an experienced one transitioning from a different organization, it doesn’t take much to derail the most carefully laid out leadership onboarding plan.  Here are seven common reasons, derailers, why leaders struggle in their new role.

Common Derailers

Derailer 1: Unclear expectations. Your manager has the clearest line of sight into how your role as a leader fits into your organization’s bigger picture. If you and your manager are not on the same page in terms of expectations, and what success looks like, confusion and frustration are sure to follow.  Be sure to ask questions and ask what they expect from you.  Have the courage to admit you don’t know everything.  You’re new!

Derailer 2: Failing to identify stakeholders. There are key constituents – senior leaders, business partners, clients – inside and outside the organization who are relying on your success as a leader. Not understanding who they are and what they need from you and your team is a recipe for disaster.  We recommend you download our ebook here to help you understand your stakeholders.

Derailer 3: Going it alone. By establishing and strengthening networks with peers, colleagues in adjacent businesses, key clients and direct reports early in the process, you’re getting better insight into the business, your goals and the people you’re working with. Neglect these relationships, and you cut off valuable sources of information and support.

Derailer 4: A lack of feedback during onboarding. The onboarding process is critical for new or transitioning leaders – it’s your best opportunity to learn, ask questions and get valuable feedback before working with your new team. Not getting this kind of guidance can tremendously obstruct your development as a new leader.

Derailer 5: Your hiring manager’s disengagement with onboarding. Many hiring managers prefer to regard onboarding as a job for Human Resources – once you’re hired, it’s HR’s job to get you up to speed. This couldn’t be further from the truth: It’s your manager who is in the best position to show you how the organization’s culture, mission, and priorities are felt in your role.

Derailer 6: Short-term thinking. When looking from an organizational perspective, it’s easy to adopt a top-down mindset that hiring someone to fill a work need, like a puzzle piece fitting into place. While that’s true, if you’re to be a successful and effective leader, your manager also needs to adopt a bottom-up perspective and establish a long-term vision for you and your new role.

Derailer 7: Not minding the gaps. Your success in a previous organization may not transfer automatically to your current one. A different organizational culture, different people, and different priorities may require you to re-evaluate the ways you lead.

Derailer 8: You are the only one with these problems.  Despite what you may think or feel the problems you are experiencing are not unique to you.  It’s likely someone else has experienced them before, so have the courage to ask for help.  Don’t seek to blame others or the process, be courageous, be humble, and look to solve the problems by enlisting others to support you and succeed.

So, let me ask you:

Do any of these derailers sound familiar to you? What has your organization done to ensure you don’t derail?  Do you have a story or experience you’d be willing to share?  What derailers are missing?

I welcome (and read) all comments, and would love to hear about your experience.  Please share below.

Also, if you’re a new leader, either to the organization or promoted from an individual contributor role, we recommend you download our ebook here.

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