Did you know that 40% of new leaders fail within the first 18 months? Gillian Davis was aware of the statistic. She was a successful recruiter, who grew up in a family owned executive search business. But she was thrust into a new leadership role on short notice, and found herself with no plan, and no clear idea of even where to start.
So Davis turned to The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan to use as a resource, but found it to be geared towards larger organizations. She then called up one of the co-authors, onboarding expert George Bradt, principal of CEO Connection, and managing director of PrimeGenesis, and asked if there was a way to adapt these tools for people leading small teams or people going into for their first time leadership role.
Out of that conversation, they decided to write a new book called First-Time Leader - Foundational Tools for Inspiring and Enabling Your New Team. They stress the importance of successful onboarding and say how you start a new assignment is critically important. They call it getting a head start before the start.
"I think a lot of recruiters go at this wrong and if leadership is about inspiring and enabling others, which it is, and if onboarding is a crucible of leadership, which it is, the way you bring people in is critical."
"I think a lot of recruiters go at this wrong and if leadership is about inspiring and enabling others, which it is, and if onboarding is a crucible of leadership, which it is, the way you bring people in is critical," said Bradt in a conversation with Peter Clayton of TotalPicture Radio.
Some of the reasons why a new leader fails can occur even before their first official day at their new role. Bradt says you have to prepare to succeed before you start, and the book contains dozens of onboarding tools that are also available here.
Besides getting off to a good start, the number one problem first-time leaders face according to Bradt and Davis is not understanding that leading requires entirely different strengths than doing or managing.
"Inspiring and enabling others is all about relationships," said Bradt. "This is probably the biggest shift for a first-time leader. At least it was for Gillian Davis. Shifting from executing the work to delegating the work was one of her biggest challenges."
To help with that shift, the authors created an easy-to-remember acronym for a key concept in the book, saying people follow BRAVE leaders:
- Behaviors: the actions that make real lasting impact on others.
- Relationships: the heart of leadership. If you can’t connect, you can’t lead.
- Attitude: encompassing strategic, posture, and culture choices around how to win.
- Values: the bedrock of a high performing team. Get clear on what really matters and why.
- Environment: setting the context for everything else by understanding where you are playing.
"When people fail, it tends to be for one of three reasons," adds Bradt. "Either poor fit, they don't deliver, or they can't adjust to another change down the road. And what's interesting is whoever you talk to about this blames the other guy. If you talk to the organization, they say yeah, you know that new guy or that new woman just didn't fit. If you talk to the new guy or new woman, they say you know that organization wasn't what they pretended to be. The organization will say, yeah he or she just couldn't get it done, they couldn't deliver and he or she will say they didn't give me the resources and support I needed to get it done."