Onboarding: The First Seven Days

A lot has been written about the complexities of executive onboarding, generally giving a calendar of a few months duration to fully get with the program. Executives, one might infer from this, are hothouse flowers requiring judicious amounts of care and feeding lest they wilt before their time. Or worse.

I don’t buy it. Really, who needs that much time? You either get it right or you don’t. And who has weeks or months to work on it?

When I mentioned it to a dear friend who’s an ex-CEO and high-level consultant, he agreed with me. Then he asked, with that look that says ‘I know the answer already’, “how much time is necessary and sufficient?”

So I said, figuring I should cite a well-known source, “if seven days is enough for creation, that should be enough for anyone.”

Not good enough for him. He wanted to know the program. So I went back to the source for some inspiration.

On the first day, I figured, you have to recognize that you’re in a whole new place. Dark? Light? No matter how much experience you have, you’re always going to be at least a little in the dark. That’s when it helps to know what you’re getting into. (Hint: Teamability.com.)

Second day is where you revisit your big vision and compare it with the reality. You may think it will take longer to really understand the reality but you do. In fact, you probably understood it on day one. (We are talking Heaven and Earth here. If you think you’ve landed in Hell, I can’t help you.)

The third day is a little trickier. There’s land and there’s sea, so what do you make of that? Well, it helps to know what you have to do to support your team. If they’re swimmers, better make sure you’ve got aquaculture, not agriculture.

The fourth day is the day you practice navigating. Not among the sun, the moon, and the stars, but among the other executives. You’ll learn who to follow and, in most cases, who to keep your distance from.

Now the fifth day is one where you can easily slip up. When most people think of ‘be fruitful and multiply’ they start thinking satin sheets and drippy candles. That’s a big no-no, but consider this other version of multiplying: self-multiplication. That’s where you confront the probability that at least one person on your team wanted your job and didn’t get it. And for each person like that, there are some who would love an opportunity. It’s never too early to let people know you see the future in them and you want to support it. Really, what better way to onboard than to have others clearing your path?

Day six is where you start to see new life-forms: people who do not look or think or speak or work like you do. Take notice and take the opportunity to interact and learn. You’ll see that your organization, in all its diversity, is just people. Essentially, it’s good.

Have you noticed so far, that almost all the parts of this onboarding program are focused on other people? On your place on the team? There’s good reason. Your success is dependent on how you interact with them. How you lead them. How good a team player you are.

And what’s in it for you if you accomplish all this in your first six days? Simple.

On the seventh day you rest!

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