Here is an excerpt from an article written by Sabina Nawaz for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.
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Beth was promoted to senior vice president at a Fortune 500 company. In addition to her existing responsibilities, she was given two new groups to manage. Overnight, her team doubled in size. Beth needed to hire senior executives to help manage her burgeoning division.
Within five months, she had her senior management team in place: four external hires and six internal executives who had worked with Beth for many years. Beth asked me to interview the team members to discover what each person thought about the opportunities and challenges within the business and how they felt about other members of the leadership team.
When Beth and I reviewed the interview findings, we found that trouble was brewing. The external hires already felt muted and isolated.
A schism had developed in the executive team between the newcomers and the people who had an existing relationship with Beth. Veteran team members already knew each other and had worked together frequently; they rarely took the time to meet with the newcomers. Consequently, the new hires were hesitant to speak up.
Beth was overwhelmed with her newly expanded responsibilities, and because she was confident in her new hires’ abilities, she had prioritized external meetings instead of spending more time connecting with them.
Everyone on the team was excited about the business and the market opportunity. They were highly skilled and well-intentioned professionals. However, they weren’t yet operating as an integrated team. Given the team dynamics, the new hires were starting to question whether they had made the right choice and whether Beth was even interested in hearing from them.
Beth’s team was on the precipice; they could easily plummet into dysfunction. Studies show that a staggering 50-70% of newly hired managers and executives fail at their new jobs and leave within 18 months. Losing a newly hired executive can cost up to three times that executive’s salary. More importantly, a loss of trust and confidence in leadership teams can affect employee morale, turnover, service, quality, processes, and much more.
Beth and I crafted a strategy to create a foundation for a new group culture that would better integrate newcomers and current executives. The goals were to keep both parties engaged with their mission and to retain the new hires. The strategy we developed can be used by any executive to engage new hires, create healthy team dynamics, and seamlessly transition to a new group culture.
Even star hires need individual attention. Beth had mistakenly assumed that talented hires at the executive level would figure things out on their own. Her neglect left the new hires feeling undervalued, unclear about key decisions they had to make, and unsure about how to best work with Beth.
To make time for her new direct reports without requiring meetings before sunrise, Beth committed to talking to each of them at least once a week, even if it meant multitasking. When she couldn’t have dedicated one-on-ones, she invited them to walk with her to or from a meeting, join her on a customer visit, or take the stairs with her instead of the elevator. This increased face time with Beth, helped to build rapport and exposed the new hires to how the company worked. Beth also learned each new hire’s career goals, which informed her decisions about how to allocate business priorities to her direct reports.
A new team member means a new team. When new team members join a team, it’s easy for veteran members to assume that business will proceed as usual and not to give much thought to team dynamics. New hires are expected to get oriented and then simply slot into the existing team. But, by definition, a new member means a refresh of the team. The job of team integration doesn’t just fall on the new hire and manager but also on existing team members. How a manager creates space for a new hire and asks the group to interact determines how engaged everyone will be in the process.
Beth decided to officially mark the change in the team by asking members to create a new set of team norms. Co-creating a plan for expected behaviors allowed everyone to feel part of the group.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.
Sabina Nawaz is a global CEO coach, leadership keynote speaker, and writer working in over 26 countries. She advises C-level executives in Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, non-profits, and academic organizations. Sabina has spoken at hundreds of seminars, events, and conferences including TEDx and has written for FastCompany.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, in addition to HBR.org. Follow her on Twitter.