Ignite The Hungry New Hire

Last week looked at the second step to building transformational teams. That being recruit and hire for learning.

Today we are going to delve into the actions that you need to take when you are onboarding your new hires.

The low end of the S-curve is usually occupied by early-career new hires or talented professionals with deep domain expertise who are branching out. You optimize your team with 15% of your people at the low end.

As you set out to manage your recent hire, there are a few things to consider. First, how to communicate your vision – or the “why” of the organization. Second, you’ll want to understand your employee’s “why” (ie why they came to work for you). Third, you must have vision for your new employee – how you’d like them to develop and how you will gauge if they are succeeding in their new role. For a deeper look at the ‘nested’ why concept please refer to defining your team’s purpose

New hires need a vision. Understanding why their job is necessary and important will power them through difficult days, when the cost of the struggle toward competence seems steep. For the first three to six months on the job, may struggle with discouragement. They may try your patience. You may even wonder why you hired them. And maybe it was a bad hire, it’s too soon to know. But you can increase their odds of moving up the learning curve by laying out a vision from the outset.

Start with the why of your organization – and your team. You may be reluctant to do so. There are too many things clamoring for your attention. You need your new hire to get right to work. One benefit of hiring internally is that the new hire will already have an idea of what the company is about.

Maybe you feel that you can’t offer a clear vision. After all, doesn’t the word “vision” imply the ability to see the path ahead and chart your path accordingly? As a discovery-driven transformer, you may not see exactly where you are going. But even if you don’t know what lies ahead, chances are you know why you are moving in that direction. The purpose that drives what you are doing is foundational. It is worth the time to examine, understand, and share it with your team.

There are endless methods and tactics, but there are very few “whys.” When we have a vision and believe in it, instead of seeing drudgery, we see discovery. Instead of aimless wandering, we see ourselves on a defined path to proficiency, at the low end of our personal growth curve. Once there is a why, there is a way.

Just as your new employee needs to understand the company’s vision you’ll want to understand theirs. Find out what they are trying to accomplish as a person and how this new role fits with their goals, as well as what they anticipate they will need from you to be successful. Ideally, in the first week of employment, you’ll hold a strategy session with your employee, just as you would with a customer: a highly important, long-term customer.

Every time you speak to your new hire assume that you’re not easily being understood and that you’re not necessarily understanding what is being communicated to you. There are times when uncertainty is something to be embraced, but this is not one of them. Communicate your expectations clearly. Answer the question: What do you hope they will accomplish in this role? How do you see them contributing to the team and to the bottom line over time? What do they need to do to be prepared for a new role? What do you need them to do now?


You also want to answer the oft-wondered, but rarely asked question, How do I manage up? I confess that get squeamish when I hear “manage up.” I can’t help but think of the great George Costanza who rises through the ranks at the venerated New York Yankees after his wondrous stint at an organization where he worked on the ‘Pensky’ file. Managing up though to me is the ability to ‘act as if’. Thinking like a manager when you aren’t. It’s about proving, through consistent, proficient work, that you can manage yourself and are therefore capable of increased responsibility.

For all your junior employees who didn’t learn to ‘manage up’ in school, be explicit: I am here to help you help me get the job done. Here’s how, I will then reward you for your contribution. And here is how I will do it.

As the chess master for your team, are you looking at your new hire as an expendable pawn to be sacrificed for short-term strategy gains? Or as a pawn that can become a queen? As you bring someone new onto the team, what kind of development do you want to occur as they move across the board? You may not know exactly how to help them because you are focused on discovery, but you can have a substantive vision. Relay this clearly and your new employee will be poised for a strong start up the S curve.

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