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Onboarding New Leaders


I recently read an article on Inc. on how Google increased new employee productivity by 25% just by sending an e-mail to managers detailing things they needed to do to effectively onboard their new team members.

The e-mail reiterated the importance of setting expectations with your new hires, ensuring they are set up for success by pairing them up with people they can rely on and encouraging open dialog. You can read the full article here: Inc. Article.

Onboarding has always been a passion for me. My personal experience has run the gamut from being taken to my desk and told: good luck, to going through extensive product and process training. I can let you guess which one was more effective. 

I believe that in order for an employee to be successful, it is imperative that the foundation is set properly. Training and support are critical in this stage, so that the employee can grow and realize their potential. When it comes to onboarding new leaders, it becomes even MORE critical, especially when you are promoting a high performer into a leadership role.

Transitioning from individual contributor to team leader is the hardest move in business today. The skills that you relied on to be at the top of your game will not necessarily translate into people leadership. You are no longer in charge of your own destiny, you now have a group of people that are depending on you to help them grow and develop, and you have several business objectives to contend with on top of your people management responsibilities.

Without the proper onboarding, what tends to happen is that new leaders focus on the business because it is what they are comfortable with. That means that their people get neglected, and they miss out on the opportunity to maximize on their team’s potential.

Here are some things to consider when onboarding your new leader:


Leadership is hard. Like super hard. Most people entering leadership have little to no experience on what it takes to be a leader. If you can, invest in leadership training that is aligned with your organization’s core values. Do it early. It is well worth the expenditure. The more prepared a new leader can come into the role, the better chances they will have in being successful.


Have a discussion with your leaders on what being a leader means. They are no longer the star running back of the team, they can’t just take the ball and run. They are now the coach of their unit and their job is to ensure that their team is growing and executing. When was the last time you saw a coach taking the ball from a player and running the play themselves? You need to be clear as to what your expectations of a leader are so that your new leader can follow suit. After that, make sure you reinforce the expectations you set so that they can continue to deliver on what you have asked of them.


Being a leader is a lonely job. It is hard to find people to rely on and be vulnerable with. Ensure your leaders’ success by pairing them up with resources that can help them as they get started. Having a mentor, or a coach to rely on can make a HUGE difference for a new leader. Someone they can ask for suggestions, opinions and advice that are not directly affected by the situation. As much as you want to serve as mentor to your new leader, you will always be tied to an outcome, so having a third party they can build a trusting relationship with can provide your new leader with the objective point of view they need.

In addition to a partner, your new leader will need some structure to help them get started. How should they structure their meetings with their direct reports? How should they conduct performance reviews? Do they have a budget they can use for team building? The more you have these items detailed out, the more your leaders can focus on leading, which is what you have hired them to do. 


Make sure that you stay close to your new leaders. Schedule regular, structured check ins so that you can support them as they go through their learning curve. Validate them. Tell them your experiences and how hard it was when you became a new leader. Your job is to ensure that your new leader has the support and resources to be successful. You can’t do that by just throwing them in the fire.


Finally, becoming a good leader takes time. You know this, you were a new leader once. How many times did you screw up a conversation, or failed one of your direct reports? I can tell you that when I was a new leader I was a disaster. The point is that new leaders need time to adjust to their new role and find their leadership voice. It is up to you to allow them that time so that you can have a successful leader in your hands.

 Andre Mello is a Business Coach and a believer that spending time on the front end with pay huge benefits at the end. He has been in marketing and leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre please visit www.wysecoaching.com

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