The Key to Executive Success: Optimizing Integration and Early Engagement

In career transitions, there are clear “milestones that matter,” and none is more important or complex than an executive’s integration into a new company or tackling of a demanding new assignment.
 
The path to success requires executives to navigate unfamiliar corporate cultures and work with new colleagues. The challenges are further complicated by the current virtual workplace and the added disruption, uncertainty and tragic events of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, racial discrimination, and general national unrest, all of which affect business models and corporate culture.
 
Yet whether the expectations placed on this person are implied, overt or self-imposed, there is still a clear mandate for senior executives: assume strategic and executional leadership, drive change and record wins quickly. I have neither experienced nor witnessed an executive who is excited about assuming a significant new role where they are expected to manage the status quo. Every executive wants to make an immediate impact, but even those with a high emotional quotient (EQ) need guidance and coaching as well as a dedicated partner to help them succeed.
 
We have found, through hundreds of engagements, that executives often bring the playbooks from their previous companies or roles, and they fail to recognize the culture in their new companies. They drive and mandate change without clear communication of their reasoning, which should be supported by changed buying patterns, non- traditional competitive threats, a rigorous growth algorithm and an enterprise-wide lens.
 
Although more than 85% of respondents to a survey published in Harvard Business Review’s May–June 2017 issue said they consider their companies’ practices to be sufficient in terms of administrative arrangements, business orientation and legal/procedural formalities, only 52% thought they had sufficient support to align expectations with teams and bosses, and just 29% said they had sufficient support to familiarize themselves with the culture.
 
We partner with human resources before the executive’s first day to identify key stakeholders related to the role the executive is assuming. Our relationships with these stakeholders then allow us to gain insights into the expectations placed on the new executive and capture early feedback that will be useful going forward. In fact, we’re able to gain insights into the organization that often cannot be captured from engagement surveys, skip-level meetings and round tables. An invaluable output of these engagements is helping the executive gain an understanding of the culture – which is particularly important since cultures are evolving as companies adjust business models and practices due to the events of 2020.
 
CultureMapping™, a critical component of our integration program, is our unique and proprietary asset that identifies potential areas of cultural disconnect between new leaders and their teams. As mentioned above, not recognizing the culture is a major factor in failed or sub-optimized integration.
 
But that’s not enough to ensure success. It’s important that the new executive establishes legitimacy by fully understanding enterprise-wide goals, other functions’ objectives and how their strategies and change initiatives will impact other businesses. This broad understanding and appreciation for the enterprise results in followership from the executive’s team and respect from peers that will lead to early wins for their organization and the enterprise.
 
Additionally, engaging with colleagues often identifies those employees throughout the company who hold “soft power.” Put another way, they’re people with institutional knowledge who “know where the bodies are buried” and how to “get things done.” An impartial, dependable and experienced coach is uniquely positioned to capture this information.
 
Our full-time job is to be an objective thought partner, steadfast coach, trusted advisor and confidential sounding board. We help executives meet their goals, deliver wins and make changes while establishing legitimacy with and support for their colleagues who have functional and enterprise-wide lenses. In addition, our work and engagements over three decades of changing environments have enabled us to develop a clear, effective and transparent process for new executives that streamlines the integration process.
 
The result is a consistent, yet customized engagement methodology designed to manage today’s business complexity and related challenges posed by many issues including the future of work, COVID-19 and racial injustice.
 
Our full Integration and Early Engagement Framework, with Virtual Transition Best Practices, is available in the myCAreer Library, or by emailing executive@crenshawassociates.com. To learn more about our corporate talent development programs including Integration, CultureMapping, Coaching and Development, visit our webpage.