Executive Onboarding: Beyond Accommodation and Assimilation to Acceleration

A new study by The Institute of Executive Development and Alexcel Group finds that almost one in three senior leaders who transfer into new companies—and one in five leaders who change within the same company—are not successful even after two years on the job. But some are able to counter this through executive onboarding. A strategic tool used to deliver better results faster, executive onboarding involves three crucial principles: accommodation, assimilation and acceleration. The goal is to help new leaders do their work, collaborate with others and deliver better results faster. Accommodation, assimilation and acceleration and are integral to a successful onboarding strategy and include the following.

Accommodation—This enables executives to do work by getting them an office, a phone, a computer and other tools they need.
Assimilation—Involves executive-identification of key stakeholders, facilitating conversations between the new executive and those stakeholders, and doing periodic 360-degree assessments for early identification of potentially troubling relationships. This enables the executive to avoid problems before they happen.
Acceleration—Includes jump starting strategic, operational and organizational processes through work done with executives and their teams. Companies that hire senior executives from outside (in order to introduce new leadership perspectives) take on significant financial and organizational risks. According to statistics 35 to 40 percent of externally hired executives fail. Acceleration focused onboarding is a way to mitigate risk at senior leadership levels.
With that in mind, newly appointed executives need to do three things:
1) Get a head start by mapping stakeholders, crafting a message and sparking pre-boarding conversations, getting ahead of the curve on personal preparation.
2) Take control of the message. Everything communicates—people read into everything new executives say and do and everything they don’t say and don’t do. Therefore executives are far better off choosing and controlling what and when people see and hear things. This is preferred over letting others make choices for them or letting things happen by chance.
3) Build a high performing team. The first 100 days are the best time to put the basic building blocks of a high performing team in place. Any executive will fail if he or she tries to do everything without the support and buy-in of their team. As a team leader, success is inextricably linked to the success of the team as a whole.
New executives can jump-start the building of a high performing team by implementing five building blocks:
  • Shaping the culture with an ongoing communication campaign
  • Getting buy-in for the one burning imperative
  • Using key milestones to drive team performance
  • Investing in early wins to build team confidence
  • Getting adept people in the right roles with the right support
A fundamental and underlying concept of leadership includes inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best. This helps the executive and the company realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. It’s not about the leader, but rather followship of the leader. Of course the leader has to set the direction and priorities. What the leader does to inspire and enable talent is important but more important are the actions and words of the leader. This is what followers see, hear, feel, believe and accomplish together as a team. This is key to accelerating progress and delivering better results faster.