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How HR Can Help New Leaders
 

By Dori Meinert  6/17/2013
 

CHICAGO--The numbers are startling: 40 percent of executives fail in new positions in the first 18 months.

That adds up to considerable financial costs for a company that must search for and retrain someone else—not to mention what it costs the organization in terms of credibility, consistency and continuity.

More than three-quarters of the time, leaders who fail do so because of poor assimilation to the culture of their new workplace, said Diane Egbers, president of Leadership Excelleration Inc. during a Sunday workshop before the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference & Exposition.

By partnering with new leaders early on, HR professionals can improve the leaders’ ability to succeed and contribute to the company, said Egbers, who co-authored the book The Ascending Leader: Conquer the Seven Enemies of Success—A Strategic Guide for the Newly Promoted (Smart Business Network, 2013) with Karen Schenk, a partner with Leadership Excelleration.

“What is really lethal is when a CEO brings someone new in and says, ‘I want you to change the culture,’ ” Egbers told more than 40 attendees at the workshop.

HR professionals should advise them to study and understand the culture first so the new executives can ensure that their proposed changes are a good fit for the company—not simply a repeat of what they did somewhere else.

Egbers recommended spending about three months to learn about the culture of the new workplace before embarking on an attempt to change it.

Leaders are under incredible pressure to prove themselves when they take on new positions, but pushing change too quickly might cause them to alienate their employees and spend energy on the wrong things, she said.

The HR team can help gather the information needed about the workplace culture and how decisions are made.

In addition, HR professionals can help leaders assess and understand their strengths and weaknesses as they take on a new role—even if it’s within the same company. Help them identify potential stress-related behaviors and how they impact others. Some stress-related behaviors that managers should avoid include:

--          Isolating themselves because they want to appear competent.

--          Developing a reputation as a know-it-all by referring too often to their past accomplishments.

--          Focusing on the wrong things.

--          Being too aggressive.

--          Needing to be liked.

--          Appearing to be out for themselves.

--          Repeating old habits.

HR professionals also can assist by preparing a process that helps new leaders gather the information they need and plan for the long term, instead of being overwhelmed by the chaos of day-to-day tasks, Egbers said.

Other common mistakes that new leaders make include:

--          Not understanding their manager’s expectations of them.

--          Overlooking key stakeholders and peers who have power within the organization.

--          Alienating their teams by not seeking input or recognizing their successes.

--          Not developing long-term goals and plans.

 

Dori Meinert is senior writer for HR Magazine.

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