Your organization just made an important executive hire – now what? Organizational Psychologists Dr. Stacey Philpot and Dr. Ted Freeman are here to answer this question and more. The two join Roy to continue their conversation around leadership transitions, discussing the ins and outs of leadership integration and acceleration.
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Ted and Stacey have been partnering with Noto Group on these kinds of complex and mission critical VP and C-Level hires for the last few years. Ted has extensive experience as an organization development consultant and executive. He previously served as Culture Officer at EILEEN FISHER, INC and couples this expertise with more than a decade of consulting experience in the areas of leadership development, organizational effectiveness, and executive coaching. Stacey brings over 20 years of experience as an organizational consultant to her role as Managing Partner at Executive Development Consulting. She’s advised Fortune 500 companies and CEOs on how to use leadership development to accelerate growth and increase their competitive advantage.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDE
- Concerns senior executives may have when entering new organizations (2:55)
- The four essential elements of success for new executive hires (5:17)
- Key steps when onboarding and integrating leadership teams (6:59)
- How to help new leaders productively and successfully engage with stakeholders (7:52)
- Challenges and risks faced by organizations when bringing in senior executives (9:29)
- The necessity for self-awareness and planning when entering a role (15:03)
- How to speed up the process of recalibration (18:15)
- The importance of contextualizing a new hire’s mandate for change within the ecosystem of the organization (21:16)
- The recipe for organizational success (22:10)
SHOW TRANSCRIPT – HOW I HIRE PODCAST WITH Dr. Stacey Philpot and Dr. Ted Freeman
[00:00:00] Roy Notowitz: Hello and welcome to another special episode of How I Hire. I’m your host, Roy Notowitz, founder of an executive recruiting and leadership consulting firm called Noto Group, where my team and I have spent the last decade helping to build iconic consumer brands, one hire at a time. You can visit us at notogroup.Com to learn more.
Today, I’m continuing my conversation with Dr. Ted Freeman and Dr. Stacey Philpot, two incredibly talented organizational psychologists and leadership development experts. Both of them have been working with my team over the past few years, and today, we’re going to share some of the details about those experiences with a deeper dive into what boards, investors, and CEOs need to know about how to successfully onboard and integrate VP or C-level hires into leadership teams. Last time, we discussed the keys to successful founder transitions. You can find that episode on howihire.com or on your favorite podcast platform.
Ted, Stacey, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast for our second part of this series around leadership transition. And today, we’re going to be talking about leader integration and acceleration within organizations, and, when they make important hires, not just the CEO level, but COO, CFO, CMOs, VPs of marketing, finance, HR, whatever the position might be. And we want to talk a little bit more about that leadership integration and acceleration, just to improve the likelihood of success and the speed to success and the impact that a person can have within an organization.
I’ve had each of you on the podcast before, but it’s been a while, so let’s get started with what’s been on your radar since the last time we talked.
[00:01:54] Stacey Philpot: Roy, it’s great to be here again — love these conversations with you. I think that this is a really timely topic because so many of the people that I’m working with are talking about the dramatic impacts of so many resignations, right?
The Great Resignation, realignment, you know? People are really moving in and out of jobs more than they’ve done in the past. And it’s putting a lot of stress on organizations and they’re trying to figure out how do they mitigate the risk? How do they help people get in faster, so really happy to be here talking with you about this topic today.
[00:02:22] Roy Notowitz: Great. Ted, do you have anything to add?
[00:02:24] Ted Freeman: Yeah. I mean, I think this has been such a dramatic moment just for us socially, politically, business-wise, and I think people are really reevaluating the psychological contract that exists between employers and employees. And that is giving rise to a lot of attention that people are paying to people and to culture and how they can best leverage them for strategic advantage in their industries.
[00:02:55] Roy Notowitz: So as we get into this topic of leader integration and acceleration, what are some of the common concerns that senior executives have when coming in from the outside? What are some of the challenges these leaders face coming into the organization?
[00:03:11] Ted Freeman: You know, it’s funny, when I think about the concerns part of that, I think what are the concerns that they have? And what are the concerns that they should have?
So in terms of the concerns that they have, you know, I think often there are things like, will I be successful? Will I have the autonomy to do what I think needs to be done? Will I be liked? People want to be liked. They want to be included. They want to belong in their organizations. Will it consume me? Right?
They’re often thinking, as they come in, like, “Boy, there’s going to be a lot. Am I going to be completely overwhelmed by this?” And then I think there’s also a piece around how do I distinguish myself? And often that distinguishing is how do I distinguish myself from my predecessor? So they did all of these things this way, could be wonderful, you know? How am I going to approach that in a way that’s going to look and feel different, but also be what the organization needs?
[00:04:12] Stacey Philpot: Yeah, it’s really interesting. I mean, I like what you said about what they are thinking about versus what they should be thinking about. And a lot of our work is sometimes helping them bring different things to the forefront.
One of those is really understanding what are people expecting or what do they need from this new leader, right? You know, early in your career, often, it’s pretty clear what you need to do to be successful, but the time you get into a more senior role, often, the expectations people have of you, aren’t aligned. They’re really different. Trying to get them all aligned and line up — that’s not going to work. You have to really understand those differences and what people need from you in the role and how your strengths, and who you are, and maybe what you’re not so great at fit and align with those expectations. So, a lot of it is helping the leader, not just know themselves, but how does who they are fit in what people need from them.
If they’re coming in from the outside, it’s often because they have a mandate for change, and they need to understand and be able to articulate that mandate and begin to anticipate how people are going to receive them.
[00:05:17] Roy Notowitz: So we all know that the stakes are high when hiring at the executive level. How is it that even the most talented leaders can start slow, stumble or crash and burn?
[00:05:27] Ted Freeman: Well, they need to do four things. One is that they need to heighten their self awareness and know what their strengths and limitations in the new role will be. They’ve known what they were in the past, maybe, but they need to know what they’re going to be in this new role, because the new role is going to have new and different demands on them. So, one is heightening their self awareness.
Two is creating their vision for the future and, even more importantly, a compelling narrative that people are going to get behind around that vision. Three is the team around them. Nobody is successful on their own — period. So, how they build that team, getting the right people, and developing those people, and having those people work together is absolutely critical.
And the fourth one is managing, successfully, other stakeholders. So, what we don’t want is incoming leaders to be spending unproductive time in conflict, or in confusion, or in duplication of effort with other key people in their environment, whether those are more senior leaders in their organization or they’re board members or investors or others.
So, if they’re able to manage those four things well, we find that they tend to be very successful. Self-awareness, their team, their vision, and managing their other partners.
[00:06:59] Roy Notowitz: Stacey, can you talk about when you get involved and what the initial steps are when you’re initiating onboarding and integration engagements, specifically, if there’s one executive or maybe several that might be coming together and forming a new leadership team?
[00:07:14] Stacey Philpot: One of the things, when you think about onboarding is it’s not orientation, right? Orientation is about telling someone what’s your job and them coming in. Onboarding, more often, is actually not a transaction, it’s more of a negotiation. Usually, if a leader is coming in at a senior level, they’re being brought in as some kind of change agent. So they need to figure out what needs to change and what needs to be the same, and there’s a lot of negotiation. So, working with them in that relationship to understand how do they adapt to the company? What do they change? How do they think about their stakeholders? That takes time, and that’s some of the work that we do.
[00:07:52] Roy Notowitz: So, in what ways do you help a new leader — it could be a CEO, or a CMO, or a VP of marketing, or whatever — how do you help them productively engage with stakeholders to make sure they’re successful?
[00:08:04] Ted Freeman: So one of the most important things is getting clearer on expectations. Once you’ve gone through the selection process, you’re now in a relationship with people, and getting clear about what the expectations are in that business relationship is critically important.
And usually, for incoming leaders, it’s not cut and dried. In other words, there are usually a lot of different expectations that they’re facing from different people. And their challenge is how they can best respond to that set of things and incorporate their own wisdom and their own experience about what the business needs. But it’s absolutely critical that they understand what it is that other people around them are looking for them to do.
[00:08:57] Stacey Philpot: And so part of the work on helping someone onboard is interviewing the people they’re going to work with and saying, what do you expect of this person? What are you going to need from them? What’s going to give you confidence that they’re doing the job well? And what’s going to show momentum? And taking that back to the person and helping them see the diversity of expectations. And helping them come up with a plan of how they’re going to meet them. They may have to choose, are there some that are going to be more important than others?
Different stakeholders they’re going to work with more closely, but kind of that mix of data and planning to help them be thoughtful about their onboarding can be very helpful.
[00:09:29] Roy Notowitz: So what are the challenges and failure points, maybe hurdles or risks, facing organizations when they bring in senior executives?
[00:09:37] Ted Freeman: Well, usually you’re bringing in a senior executive from the outside because, well, usually it’s some combination of, you know, you haven’t done the succession planning over time, or you don’t have what you need internally to fill that role.
Also, there’s just a lot of churn in organizations these days. But when people are coming in from the outside, I mean, you know, Roy, the whole basis for our partnership was that we were seeing that too many of those people fail. And even when we find an amazing person, even when we find someone who’s a wonderful, wonderful match for what the organization needs, like, too many of them fail. And that failure can look like short tenure, right? Like they just don’t stay for that long. It could look like they don’t have the impact that they wanted to have, that the organization wanted them to have. It could be that they have the impact, but that it comes at a huge cost in other ways, but there’s some way that it’s just not as successful as we want it to be.
And the reason is usually some combination of what Stacey was talking about. Not seeing some important blind spots or playing to the right strengths for this new job, something about how they’re managing that mandate for change, how they are building or not building the team that they need to do that, how they are, or are not managing this network of relationships. Thinking about the self assessment piece, we’ve seen so many times that the strengths that people had at an earlier stage in their career or in their last job, even if this is a lateral move, they over-rely on those strengths, because they think, “Well that worked there, so it’s got to work here.” Our view on that is maybe — those might be the right strengths to apply here, but let’s match up what is needed in this role now with what you’re strong at, and what you need to pay attention to, and what you might need to compensate for by having someone around you who’s going to fill that blind spot, fill that thing that you’re not so great at. So, being amazing in one system doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to use the same things to be amazing in this new system. And really helping people get clear about that and understand that I think is one important piece of the puzzle.
[00:12:06] Stacey Philpot: So, I was just thinking about an example of someone I was actually working with this week that I think highlights some of the things Ted’s pointing out.
So, working with an organization where they really felt like they needed to up their capability in digital and said, you know, we really need someone who is from a company that’s way ahead of us in this game. And they brought that leader in and the boss of the person said, “Look, you have got to radically and quickly up our capability in digital.”
And he took that on and went hard, but what he didn’t think about in that mandate for change was what were the implications and why were things the way they were currently? And what happened is people felt that this person wasn’t listening to them, didn’t understand the brand, wasn’t really prepared to be in the role.
And it was really difficult, and they had a lot of bumps in the road that needed to be corrected or readdressed. And if you think about the advice people get when they’re new in a company is you got to make relationships, you know, people need to get to know you. And that’s true, even when you have a change mandate, but sometimes those things can feel at war when you’re a new leader going, “Well, how do I get people to feel comfortable with me and build relationships so they trust me? But at the same time, my job is actually — the whole reason I’m here is to do something really different.” And managing those and thinking about them in advance can help a leader navigate it a little bit more easily.
[00:13:30] Roy Notowitz: I think companies often overemphasize maybe a competency or an area of experience that they want somebody to bring in to the organization that they don’t have, but then, if it comes in too strong, it becomes a bit of a challenge or liability for that person coming in, having to sort of manage or regulate what’s the right amount of that strength or superpower to bring into the mix.
[00:13:51] Stacey Philpot: Absolutely Roy, and I think what you’re raising also is another point, which is it’s not often that one single person can increase a capability in an organization. And so, sometimes people think, “Well, we brought in this new head of — digital,” but that person needs to revamp their team, build other capabilities, partnerships. It’s a whole lot of work that takes time. And sometimes people oversimplify and think, “Well, I’ve brought this person in,” and that’s another pitfall.
[00:14:18] Roy Notowitz: And it does take time, no matter how great the person is.
If you’re enjoying this episode, check out our blog, where there’s related posts that Ted has written on the topics of forming the right constellation for high performance teams, as well as enabling leadership success after the hire. You can find the blog on our website, www.notogroup.com.
Okay. So bringing in an outside hire at the senior-most level of a company can be a great way to promote change, but it can also be challenging. What are some of the things that can be done to help senior executives be successful when they’re coming in from the outside?
[00:15:03] Ted Freeman: Well, we talked a little bit about this idea of self-awareness and building an accurate self-assessment for people. So, part of that is, you know, we like to do leadership personality assessments. They really give us, very quickly, a window into a person’s leadership tendencies, things about their style, what kind of culture they’re going to create. What are the ways that they are likely to slip up if they’re under stress, or they’re tired, or they’re not having their best day? And really giving this person information about that so that they’re better equipped to manage themselves in their new role. So that’s one piece that we like to focus on.
Another is, you know, we talked about this idea of a change mandate, and I think we want to talk about this from a couple different angles, but, at least part of that is getting clearer on it, making sure that you have the right input to it, right? So you’re clear about what are the expectations around that change mandate.
But then communicating that using a narrative that is compelling to people and has them understand the “why.” That it’s not, “Hey, I’m coming in here and because I say, so we’re going to be going in this direction,” but rather, “This is where we’ve been. This is where we are. This is where we need to go. And this is how we’re going to get there.”
And both developing that and bringing that to people in a way that engages them, rather than having them feel anxious, irrelevant, you know, whatever it is.
[00:16:51] Roy Notowitz: What do you think, Stacey?
[00:16:52] Stacey Philpot: I think two things that I like to do that I see really helping people. One is helping them have a plan for how they’re going to transition that addresses all these things that we know are important.
Who are they and what are their strengths? And what gets them into trouble? As Ted said. What’s the story about what they’re trying to do? How does their team support that? And what are the key relationships that they need to manage and how are they going to do that? Being really thoughtful — that’s aside from their goals and their organizational metrics.
But what is the plan they’re going to do to transition into the company? And how will they know they’ve been successful? I think the other thing is helping people understand how the job may be different than what they anticipated. A lot of times, people think a job’s going to be one thing, and I’m sure you see this all the time, and then they get in and realize it’s really quite different. And that becomes a point where they need to readjust how they’re usually onboarding. So helping them think about that, and process that, and talk about it, and readjust can be really helpful. The job sometimes isn’t what you think it’s going to be, right? And I actually love to ask people the question: how is this job different than what you thought it was going to be at six months? And they have a lot to say. And then just the follow up question of: okay, so how have you adapted to that? And what else do you need to do differently? Really, you know, people don’t really ask them the question of how is this job not what you thought? But it can unlock a lot.
[00:18:15] Roy Notowitz: We always try to be really accurate when we’re marketing and going through that process with candidates and clients, oftentimes I think are also great at painting a picture of what’s expected and what’s needed, but then, you know, sometimes, especially because we deal with a lot of growing organizations, you know, they’re hiring ahead of the curve, but then the person needs to reach back and do some things maybe that they haven’t done before. Or maybe the organization is structured a little bit differently in terms of resources and teams. And so there’s that connecting that needs to happen that they haven’t had to do in the past. You know, sometimes I’m sure they sort themselves out, but it can take a while, and, you know, you don’t want to leave things to chance. Are there things we can do to speed up this process of, you know, recalibration, I guess?
[00:18:58] Stacey Philpot: I mean, I think often, you know, people sort of grind it out and push their way through and make it happen, but that creates waste and takes time. One of the things I noticed with all leaders is that our time has become really fragmented, right? You know, we are in half hour or fifteen minutes or forty-five minute increments. Helping a leader look at all of these four key aspects to transitioning well, kind of in an integrated way, I think that is really, really helpful. So spending a significant period of time with them to look at how all these things reinforce each other.
The story of your mandate. Is your team equipped to deliver on that mandate? What else do you need? How are other people outside of your team going to view this mandate? What do you need to do to win them over? All of that and helping them come up with a plan, it just speeds everything up and takes some of the risk out.
[00:19:50] Ted Freeman: And that really, in a nutshell, is the leadership accelerator work that Stacey and I do. And, you know, it is a structured process that allows people to bring all that information together pretty quickly. And we do use it a lot with people who have transitioned from outside organizations into new organizations.
We also have used it with people who are transitioning from one role to another internally. But it’s also an opportunity for other leaders to take stock, and to reset, and to regroup about where they are. So there are a number of leaders that we’ve done this with, that they haven’t changed roles, they’re not new to the organization, but they’re saying, “You know what? I need this space that Stacey’s talking about. To step back and reset myself in terms of my mindsets and my expectations. Get clear on what my mandate is at this moment, get clear on what my relationships are with my stakeholders, get clear on what I need from my team and whether I need to make any changes with my team.”
So it’s kind of bringing this set of things together in a concentrated way. And I think what we find is people leave that with some very clear, practical things for them to do, to move themselves, their team, their organization forward.
[00:21:09] Roy Notowitz: Do you have anything else to add about some of the things that can be done to help a senior executive when they come in from the outside?
[00:21:16] Ted Freeman: Well, I think one thing that we’ve been thinking a lot about is how they put together this idea of being clear about their mandate for change with how they are strategically managing their network and their relationships. So I think that there’s a little bit of an old fashioned idea where the first thing you need to do when you come into an organization is you need to get a couple of quick wins, you need to build relationships with, you know, some of the key decision makers in the organization, and you need to, you know, create a clear vision, and then start executing on that. And that is a kind of, you know, heroic, muscular approach that has a lot of allure, but, I think what we’re seeing, and Stacey and I see this, and it’s backed up by research in this area about transitions, is that people need to do something that’s just a little bit more complicated.
Yes, you need to be clear about your mandate for change. Yes, you need to be ready to communicate. And you need to think about how you are integrating that with the many, many other mandates for change that other people in your environment are trying to get done. So I think the compliment to creating, you know, the clarity of your mandate to change is going out to people in the organization and listening to their purposes, their circumstances, their concerns, what they are trying to get done in the organization and thinking about how am I going to serve that? And how am I going to integrate that with what I’m doing? Because otherwise, you know what you’re going to get? You’re going to get dozens, scores, hundreds of leaders in an organization, each trying to pursue their own change mandate. And that does not lead to organizational success. So I think that there’s this next level that we need to bring leaders to around that.
[00:23:11] Roy Notowitz: Let’s talk about what advice you have for leaders as they come into a new role. And also what advice you have for their leaders, CEOs, and boards that are supporting them in this process.
[00:23:24] Ted Freeman: I think the main thing is don’t leave things to chance. You know, you’ve invested a lot of time, invested a lot of energy, a lot of money, usually, to find this amazing person.
Focus on what they now need to fully be successful. Don’t assume that just because you got that amazing person that everything’s going to go well. I mean, I just think that the data tells us very clearly that too often, it doesn’t. So how can we really be deliberate about helping the person understand how to bring their best selves to this new role, how to create that vision, that picture, and communicate that picture of how they’re going to change, how they’re going to integrate that with other changes that are happening in the organization.
And then also, how do they make sure that they have the people around them that they’re really excited and confident are going to help bring that to life? I mean, there is nothing like the feeling of having a team around you that you’re saying, “You know what? This is the team that I want.” You know, we had a CEO say to us the other day, “This is the best team I have ever had.
And I want to focus further on the development, but I am just so excited about that.” That is excitement and that brings about organizational success.
[00:24:44] Stacey Philpot: I think what I would say is — it’s kind of the old adage of — no one cares how much you know, until they know you care. So a lot of times we see leaders coming in with their change mandate, and they feel the need to tell people of their story about that, but they don’t listen first. If you want to bring people on board and you want to build relationships, listen. Ask them about what’s going on for them. As, you know, Ted said, what are they trying to do? What matters in their lives? And what are they worried about? Then you can start talking about your mandate.
[00:25:14] Roy Notowitz: This has been fantastic. And what we’re talking about here is really augmenting and elevating the onboarding and integration process to the next level.
My team’s mission is around building leadership teams that excel and endure and the work that you do and have been doing with our clients has really elevated the firm’s impact and my team’s success. And, uh, really appreciate all the work that you do for us and, and others looking forward to doing more projects together in the future.
If anyone wants to connect with you, how would they connect with you?
[00:25:48] Ted Freeman: Notogroup.com
[00:25:51] Roy Notowitz: Awesome. It’s just been amazing to work with you on some of these important hires at the CEO level, and also, at the leadership level, as they’re transitioning and accelerating their impact within the organization. And I appreciate what you do, and I appreciate you sharing all of this information on the podcast for the benefit of our clients and friends.
[00:26:11] Ted Freeman: Roy, you know, I love, love, love, love, love, love working with you and very happy about all the success that Noto Group is having.
[00:26:18] Roy Notowitz: Thank you. And Stacey, thank you so much as well. It’s been just so great being able to have somebody of your caliber working with us in this way as well.
[00:26:27] Stacey Philpot: Thanks so much, Roy, it’s such a pleasure to be here. Really enjoyed it.
[00:26:31] Roy Notowitz: Thanks for tuning in to this special episode of How I Hire. If you enjoyed this short series and would like to hear more episodes like this, please let us know.You can find us on LinkedIn or share a review on Apple Podcasts. How I Hire is created by Noto Group Executive Search. To find out more about Noto Group visit notogroup.com. This podcast was produced by AO McClain, LLC. To learn more about their work, visit aomcclain.com.