New Leader Onboarding – Best Practices


You have just been hired or promoted to a new role with increased leadership responsibilities. Or, you’re an HR leader tasked with onboarding a new leader quickly and successfully. What is your first step? Do you have a plan for success?

Onboarding is commonly referred to as the process of integrating leaders into the culture, organization, team, function, and position in order to build effectiveness, create impact, and accelerate success as quickly as possible. And with studies revealing about half of all new leaders quit or fail within the first 18 months, onboarding is critical to creating a path to success for leaders, their new team, and the company.

Successfully onboarding a new leader begins with understanding the three phases and what should be accomplished in each one:

  • Discovery
  • Diagnosis
  • Direction

Each phase can last anywhere from 15 to 60 days with overlapping tasks and responsibilities. To better understand how to successfully onboard a new leader, follow these best practices.


#1 – Create a 90 Day Plan

Establish your objectives. What do you want to accomplish during the first 90 days in terms of your role, team, stakeholders, operations, etc.? Focus on learning about your role, team, stakeholders, company culture, etc. and establish relationships with key stakeholders

#2 – Assessments

Identify the leaders’ strengths, areas for improvement, values, and leadership style by using a variety of assessments. Once you have the results, create a plan for leveraging strengths and improving weaknesses.

#3 – Team Assimilation

One of the most critical elements for new leaders is to build trust with their team members and gain their support. The team assimilation process is an excellent way for the leader to set expectations, address key issues and respond to questions.

#4 – Boss Assimilation

It is also important for new leaders to accelerate the development of a strong working relationship with their boss. Open communication and setting expectations are essential aspects of this relationship and working with a leadership coach is an excellent way to facilitate the discussion.

#5 – Stakeholder Analysis

By identifying key stakeholders, new leaders can focus their time and attention on those who matter the most. With limited time, new leaders should develop relationships and align stakeholders to their plans.

#6 – SWOT Analysis

One of the core areas during the onboarding process is to identify the direction the new leader should take moving forward. Use a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to help determine their strategy and direction.

#7 – Develop a Vision

During the first 90 days, leaders are compelled to examine the direction of their organization, department, team, and function by developing a vision, mission and values statement. This drives alignment among the team and provides the organization the needed direction, priorities, and guiding principles for actions going forward.

By following these best practices, a new leader can create success, build effectiveness and create impact in the organization. Otherwise, the alternative of a leadership failure costs the organization, time, money, lost productivity, and lower employee morale.


Tips For Selecting A Company For New Leader Onboarding

new leader onboarding

Research has shown that almost 50% of new leaders fail to meet expectations within the first 12 to 18 months in their new position. This failure costs companies time and money resulting in a loss of productivity, efficiency, employee engagement, morale, and many other consequences.

When onboarding a new leader, it is important to hire an outside company to help facilitate the process in order to assimilate the leader into your organization more efficiently and effectively in a shorter period of time. This new leader onboarding process creates a path to success for the new leader and better results overall.

Here are 12 tips to consider when looking to hire a company to help implement the new leader onboarding process:

  1. Client List – Does the company have an impressive list of clients known for outstanding performance in their industries?
  2. Industry Experience – Does the company have coaches with experience in your industry or related industries possessing the knowledge of problems unique to your industry?
  3. Coaching Experience – Does the company have coaches with extensive experience coaching leaders at the C-level or high-potential Directors in preparation for officer level roles?
  4. Real World Experience – Does the company have coaches who have served in top senior level roles who are able to understand and relate to the real problems faced by your senior leaders?
  5. Coaching Methodology – Does the company have a proven coaching process and measurements that will help you and the leaders track progress and ensure success?
  6. Training & Certification – Does the company have coaches who have been trained and certified in a proven coaching methodology that has an established track record improving senior leader performance?
  7. ROI – Does the company have case studies to show the ROI for their coaching services?
  8. Education – Does the company have coaches with advanced degrees in business and psychology which provides the foundation for leadership development?
  9. Chemistry – Does the company have coaches who can establish instant credibility with your senior leaders?
  10. Fees – Do the company’s fees fit with your expectations and are they competitive with the coaching industry?
  11. Collaborative Partnership – Does the company have coaches who are committed to partnering with HR to achieve success for the new leader?
  12. Extensive Coach Network – Does the company have a network of coaches who can serve your needs at key locations around the globe?

Achieving success for your new leaders is possible with the right company to partner with you and implement a personalized strategic plan. Knowing what to look for in a company will offer you an even greater chance for success and open the door to improved leadership impact and effectiveness.


Effective New Leader Onboarding


Typically, when a new leader is announced, team members become concerned about their future and the status of their responsibilities. As a new leader, initial goals with your team are to accelerate your impact and alignment to your vision. Often this is complicated if you were promoted from among your peers or you have been hired from the outside. In either situation, you’ll need to be sure that your team is completely onboard and aligned with your new direction.

A best practice technique used in several companies for new leader onboarding is the New Leader Team Assimilation process. In short, this process opens up team communications with the NEW leader and their team, helps build a team culture for openness, efficiently accelerates building stronger personal relationships, and provides the team with a safe venue to discuss any team and organizational challenges. This 6-step process works as follows:

1. The new leader lets their team know a coach (internal or external) will be contacting them to solicit their confidential input about what’s on their minds, concerns, suggestions, etc.

2. Confidential interviews are held with the leader’s direct reports by the coach. These interviews are either one-on-one or with the entire team present.

Interview questions typically asked of the team ahead of the meeting:

  • What do you know about (New Leader) already?
  • What don’t you know about (New Leader) but would like to know?
  • What should (New Leader) know about the team’s skills, experience, and dynamics?
  • What concerns do you have about (New Leader) taking the role? Concerns about what he/she might do?
  • What is inhibiting you the most from doing your job effectively?
  • What advice would you give (New Leader) to be sure he/she stays the course and is most successful?
  • What do you expect from (New Leader)?
  • What major problems will (New Leader) face?
  • What do you think (New Leader’s) job is in the next 12 months?
  • What are the top two things in the organization (New Leader) needs to change and why?

Typical questions answered by the new leader in the team meeting:


  • What do you know about the team already?
  • What are your hot buttons?
  • What are your priorities and goals for the team?
  • What are things at the Company that should be changed?
  • How do you describe your management style?
  • How do you like to get information?
  • How do you like to communicate?
  • How do you want to hear bad news?
  • What do you like to do for fun?

3. The coach briefs the new leader ahead of their meeting. The coach outlines their role and makes recommendations for productive and effective leadership behaviors in this type of meeting.

4. The new leader and the team meet to discuss the team’s input and answer the questions. The coach covers the meeting objectives, ground rules, provides an overview of the entire process, and facilitates this discussion among the team and new leader. Both the new leader and coach ensure all topics and issues raised in the interviews are introduced for discussion always protecting anonymity.

5. After the meeting the notes are provided to the entire team including follow-up items.

6. The coach and new leader meet to debrief and discuss the key insights, observations, and follow-up items.

While the New Leader Team Assimilation process can be conducted as a standalone activity, it is most helpful as part of a new leader executive coaching process. This process works very well to help accelerate the team’s performance while reducing areas of ambiguity upon the new leader’s announcement, helps the new leader manage their time efficiently, and fosters an open team culture where anything can be brought up and discussed.