With their inside viewpoint, promoted leaders
should have an easier time integrating into new
positions than external hires, right? Actually, the
facts might surprise you. Research finds execu-tives
moving up not only face the same hurdles as their outside
counterparts, but must confront additional challenges unique to
the transition process.
According to a recent study by RHR International, a signif-icant
number of promoted leaders encounter difficulty. In the
first three months, almost 80 per cent rated themselves as pre-pared
to take on their new role. By the 10-month mark, up to
40 per cent find the transition a challenge; 20 per cent rate it a
downright disappointment. Even for those whose overall experi-ence
is positive, the challenges they report facing are real, visceral
and often unexpected.
The leadership article in the previous issue of HR Professional
introduced five key success factors for onboarding new execu-tives.
These are equally valuable to promoted individuals, but
with unexpected twists. Understanding the differences will help
HR professionals steady and support stumbling executives.
Job requirements are usually discussed thoroughly with exter-nal
candidates during the selection process. Conversations with
internal candidates tend to be more perfunctory. Unless it is ad-dressed,
this vacuum can lead to misalignment and confusion
almost immediately. Lack of role clarity was the number one
complaint of promoted leaders polled.
External hires build their reputations from a clean sheet of pa-per.
Internals do not have the same opportunity. Promoted
executives always take their history with them to the next level.
Condescension, jealousy and resentment may manifest them-selves
when former peers become direct reports and former
superiors are now peers. Relationships may need re-contracting,
strengthening or repairing.
While most promoted executives say they understand the cul-ture,
they still struggle to navigate it. Leaders who advance to a
new level can underestimate how difficult it is to influence others
to support their goals and plans. They tend to assume the power
of their new position will suffice. They often discover that their
effectiveness is inhibited by a lack of focus on building the cred-ibility
they need to maneuver effectively at a higher level in the
External hires realize that early wins are critical to establish-ing
credibility. Those transitioning internally put less pressure
on themselves. Promoted executives tend to assume they are al-ready
a “known entity.” They overlook the fact that others may be
watching them carefully for evidence that they deserve the job
and thus miss an important opportunity to quickly and effective-ly
establish themselves in their new role.
Taking on a new role will inevitably reveal gaps in knowledge
and experience. Again, promoted leaders tend to overestimate
how prepared they are. More importantly, others assume that the
leader already knows everything just because he/she has worked
in the organization. The challenge is to acknowledge the gaps,
address them and get up to speed as quickly as possible.
HOW HR PROFESSIONALS CAN IMPROVE AND
ACCELERATE LEADERSHIP TRANSITIONS
Many organizations have robust, effective processes for recruit-ing,
selecting and onboarding external talent. To ensure success,
HR professionals should apply the same methodical approach
to managing their internal succession as they do their external
recruitment and hiring. The application of these proven proce-dures
to internal placements should likewise enhance the success
rate of these transitions and accelerate the performance of pro-moted
Stumbling to the Top
WHY DO PROMOTED EXECUTIVES FAIL?
By Debra Hughes, MBA, Ph.D.
PART 2 OF 3
HRPATODAY.CA ❚ NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 ❚ 31