5 Pro Tips for Onboarding Leaders: The Close is Just the Beginning



So you’ve snagged yourself a top-notch leader–nice work! However, just because you’ve closed a deal with your dream VP or C-Level executive doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. Once the contract is signed, it’s more important than ever to make them feel welcome. Here’s a step-by-step guide to make sure that once you’ve hooked ‘em, they’ll stay on the line.

#1: Over communicate

As soon as he’s accepted, give him an email address immediately. Even if he hasn’t officially started, you want him to feel like he is already part of the team. We recently had a client relocate a person to California for a new position. The company sent a video welcoming him and a basket of California-specific food items and company swag; things like this will help the new person feel like a part of the family. He should have met with many of the people reporting to him by now–have those people send him an email as well, welcoming him to the team.

#2: Set the hooks and keep them in

After you immediately give your new hire a company email address and bring her in, set up weekly in-person planning meetings, in person if possible, to start getting her ingrained into the culture. Ask: What do we need to do to help you be successful? What tools do you need? What people do you need? What questions do you have that aren’t answered? Work on a 30-, 60-, and 90-day plan to ensure there is alignment on the definition of success in the role, and what is expected. All of this sets an emotional hook that’s hard to wiggle off of.

#3: Help with the transition

One important thing to remember is that the person you’ve hired still has to extract himself from his current employer, which can be difficult. Recognize that that company may put a counter-offer on the table, and there may be some back-and-forth there. Whether you like it or not, some people can be bought. Hopefully, this person should be leaving for the right reasons, which should be determined during the recruiting process, but either way, fully bringing him into the fold–and helping with the transition–will help establish a sense of loyalty right off the bat.

Ensure that you speak with him about the resignation process–if he did take the job for the right reasons, and not purely for compensation, then he recognized an opportunity that does not exist at his current company. When he resigns, he should highlight that the resignation is due to things his current company can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t, from a business perspective) provide to him. If compensation, perks, or benefits are mentioned, then the motivations aren’t necessarily aligned, and a counteroffer could ‘solve the problem.’  Coach him about being thoughtful around planning his transition and making the group he is leaving successful–burning bridges is never a good idea.

#4: Set things in motion

Once your new hire has given notice at her current employer and has put a transition plan in, it’s your job to help her be successful. For the first six months, keep evolving the aforementioned plan to publicly celebrate early successes and add on new challenges to conquer. Make her feel invested in her own success and explain what she’ll get out of it. Involve others in her success. Give direct feedback; she will want to know what is working and what you can help her with. This will draw her closer to having more of a mentor/mentee position with direct reports, and if you can raise better leaders within your own company, everyone wins. If this were sailing, you’d be pushing her from the pier and raising her sails.

#5: Manage the ‘long tail’

The one year mark is usually the right time to look back on how things have worked out.  You’re always taking a risk in hiring someone, and he’s taking a risk by joining you on your journey.  Between six months to a year on the job, he should be reasonably self-sufficient in execution, but still making sure he has context and isn’t going too far afield of historical company norms.  During this time, his sails are up and he is off; ensure that you help him navigate the waters ahead.  If you do this, you’ll have smooth sailing together for the long term.

Image credit: CC by Vinoth Chandar

About the author: Sam Wholley

Sam Wholley is a partner at Riviera Partners, working with public and venture-backed portfolio companies to build top-tier executive and management teams

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