Executive Onboarding – Getting Off to a Great Start

We were recently called on to coach a senior leader who had been with the company for 24 months.  During the onboarding period, the leader had experienced a series of personal stressors. Unfortunately, this leader came to understand at the 18th month that he had unintentionally alienated the majority of the executive team. By the time we were called in to “fix” the problem, perceptions of the individual were already firmly embedded.  It will require significant effort on the part of the coachee now to alter these perceptions, repair trust, and build quality working relationships with the senior leaders of the company – if they will give him another chance.

Executive onboarding helps to ensure that new leaders get off to a great start.  But the time constraints of internal staff can make it difficult to provide the onboarding experience that new leaders need. Typical new leader onboarding processes include a HR orientation, a list of people to become acquainted with, and a meeting with the hiring manager to create a sketchy 30-60-90 day plan.  However, with 40% to 64% of new leaders failing in the first 18 months on the job (the higher percentage coming from out of industry), executives often require more support than what is offered in the typical onboarding process.  

External coaches providing a robust onboarding program for new leaders will work them through a series of process steps while helping them to assimilate into the culture of the organization.  Emphasis is also placed on leveraging strengths and managing potential blind spots that could lead to derailment. Throughout the onboarding experience, the coach acts as a sounding board, raises thought-provoking questions, and provides a critical external perspective.

Content for discussions between the external coach and new leader during the onboarding period (usually three to six months) may include the following:

  • Organizational culture and dynamics
  • Integration of leadership style
  • Critical information review
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Learning plan development
  • Meeting preparation – stakeholders, town hall, functional team, etc.
  • Identification of long-term opportunities and early wins
  • Selection of an internal Board of Directors or mentors
  • Function/business realignment strategy
  • Development of a 18-month leadership platform and key initiatives
  • Communication strategy
  • Creation of metrics
  • Team assessment/development
  • Team building
  • Priority and goal setting
  • Self-management and stress management strategies


Skilled executive onboarding coaches can help to ensure that new leaders get off to a great start by focusing on implementation of process steps embedded in best practices, cultural assimilation, and self-management.  Onboarding coaching investments have a strong ROI as they greatly reduce the possibility of failure in the first 18 months. 

Clare Cavalier

Clare Cavalier

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