On Starting A New Job


I recently spoke with a senior executive transitioning from an NGO to a financial services corporation. Talk about a significant change in their work environment.

His new role at the insurance carrier, it turns out, was a recently created position, very likely advocated by the company’s BOD. The fact that he reached out to me (and some others) meant he was paying attention to his thoughts and feelings. He knew, quite rightly, that the first six months could be a little bumpy, the stakes were high, and that he needed the support of a skilled coach to “slay this dragon.”.

Using my coaching filter, I would say he was really looking for somebody to help him creatively adapt to this new, relatively unknown world. How would he need to change to be effective (and fulfilled) in this new role? At one point in our conversation, I compared the process of integrating a new executive into a new organization to that of a new organ entering a host. Full disclosure: this idea was not something I invented. Rather, it was suggested by a coaching mentor of mine and it really resonated with me because I could relate from personal experience.

“What on earth do you mean?” his body language asked.

So I clarified why I used this analogy. Here’s what I remember saying:

Despite what may have been conveyed to you in the interview process, some of the powerful executives within the company (the “host”) may not support you or your initiative(the new “organ.”). These elements of “rejection” may very well emerge as you pursue the job your new boss and the company hired you to do. The fact that the position was a new role within the company increased the risk of experiencing pockets of “resistance.”

Naturally, this executive’s immediate goal is to positively integrate into the organization and perform the job he was hired for. This starts with using the strengths he brings to the table. Often, however, that’s not enough: he’ll also need to address what limits or gets in the way of his effectiveness in his new work environment and bolster other, previously less exercised skills. Put another way, to create the business value he was hired for and find personal meaning in the role, he may very well need to make some changes to the playbook that led to his success in his previous jobs. It simply may not work in his new role.

When I work with executives during their first six months in a new role, there are five common themes that tend to surface. And it is through our conversations around these themes that the executive becomes more aware and accepting of what’s getting in the way, what the possibilities for change are, and what specific changes will lead to more positive outcomes. Often, this means engaging with the executive’s healthy resistance to change and surfacing blind spots.

Where the heck have I landed?
It’s extremely difficult to create business value in a large corporation when you don’t understand the full context or the norms of behavior. Without this understanding, developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships and shaping vision and strategy will be difficult if not impossible.

We’re just not on the same page
When you completed the interview process and accepted the offer, you had certain expectations about the new role. You may discover that your expectations are not exactly aligned with those of your boss, or certain peers, or even those in higher leadership positions. Without an alignment of expectations, it’s difficult to succeed.

I don’t understand these people
We sometimes discover that what we value in the workplace is not the same as what some of our colleagues value. Moreover, there’s often a disconnect between the values the organization publishes in internal documents or on their corporate web site and actual behavior.

My old bag of pixie dust is not working
You show up with your strengths; but also with certain weaknesses in areas that may be important in your new role. Maybe you haven’t had to deal with “resistance” from other functional areas or your boss is a micro-manager and is blind to your need for agency.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it
Everybody knows the impression you make in the first 90-180 days is difficult to change. On the one hand, delivering quick wins makes a great impression. On the other hand, other activities such as relationship building, with less immediate direct contributions to the company, are essential.

Dare to ask: am I a good leader?

Executives integrating into a new organization will be confronted with these and other issues that can work against an executive’s success. They make it more difficult for the executive to deliver the business value they were hired for and the work experience can turn negative, creating stress and potentially burn out. With a skilled coach, executives gain the support they need to integrate smoothly into the “host” and focus on the fundamental reason they were hired and accepted the position in the first place: to create business value and focus energy on a purpose that’s meaningful.

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