President and Co-Founder at Stax, bringing a brand-new, integrated payment processing experience to business owners of all types.
When you onboard a new hire, the first 90 days are crucial for success, but never more so than when that new employee is an executive. This is even more important when onboarding executives at a high-growth startup, where the stakes are high, the pace is fast and the margin for error is low.
At Stax, we have a process for the first 90 days that we use when onboarding our new executives. Here are some useful tips I’ve learned along the way through this process.
When we’ve just hired a new executive, we want to ensure they spend the first 30 days learning all they can. So, we have them meet with their teams and conduct one-on-one meetings with their people and those from other departments for the sole purpose of absorbing information. They’re essentially treated like consultants, using their curiosity to ask questions about processes, products and all things related to the company. During this phase, they’re not allowed to make changes, but they can provide feedback on their observations.
After spending their initial 30 days absorbing materials and giving feedback, the new executives should now have a greater understanding of how the company operates and where they can make the most impact. During days 30-60, we ask our new executives to define three key initiatives they think they can immediately drive. It could be making a change or doing something to accelerate a task, but it needs to be something they can and will own.
Once they’ve had a chance to absorb the lay of the land and define their key initiatives, our new executives spend days 60-90 making refinements. Now that they better understand the business, we ask them what they want to change, how things can improve and what tweaks can make life easier and more efficient.
Along with our three-step process, we also include two essential elements to our executive onboarding process throughout their first 90 days.
It’s one thing to set a new executive off on a knowledge quest, and it’s another to ensure they’re properly engaged. For that reason, we conduct weekly one-on-ones with our new executive as part of our onboarding process. When you connect weekly, you create a feedback loop to promote greater understanding and getting up-to-speed faster. Frequently, touchpoints also mean that you can course correct early to help them work through things to understand how to avoid a negative domino effect.
Balancing Autonomy And Pushback
When you bring in a new executive, you need to trust them, but you also shouldn’t forget what made you successful before their arrival.
For example, when you’re a youthful executive, what can sometimes happen when bringing in a seasoned, hot shot CXO is that they make a tweak and you feel intimidated to push back. But your decade of experience scaling your business is valuable, so remember not to suppress your voice. It’s important to stay vocal and true to who you are.
On the other hand, try not to move to the opposite extreme where you’re reluctant to collaborate or embrace change. If you find yourself saying things like, “That’s not how we do things here,” you might want to pause, remember why you brought on this new exec and be more open.
In the end, it’s about balancing a new executive’s autonomy with a healthy level of pushback.
And when you use these five ways to onboard new executives, you can increase your company’s and hires’ success.
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