Onboarding a New Manager: What the Boss Should Look For During the First 6 Months

It’s well known that the highest performing companies start with having the right team. So selecting the right people to staff the management team is among the most crucial tasks of any CEO. I recently wrote about why I feel it’s so important for the CEO or business owner to be involved with the onboarding of any new manager and what I feel are five critical components of that process. You can read about it here. For this article, I thought we could go a little more in depth into the specifics of what a CEO or department head should be looking for in a new manager during the first six months on the job.

As I mentioned in my previous article, a good onboarding process will bring the right person up to speed as quickly as possible and will also weed out the wrong hire quickly. But it bears repeating that the expectations and potential of any newly hired or promoted person will only be achieved if the new hire possesses the values and beliefs of the organization and/or ownership. I cannot emphasize this enough. Please do not promote or hire someone without first comparing your values to theirs. Over and over again I find that business owners and CEOs do not place enough importance on this and the results can be disastrous for the individual, for management and for the culture of the company.

So, assuming the person is a good cultural fit for your organization, here are some of my suggestions as to what to look for in a new manager during the first six months:

The first 2 weeks:

Do not expect the new hire to be doing any “work” for the first two weeks. The first two weeks should be an orientation, consisting of the new person visiting the different areas of the business.

After the required HR/compliance paperwork is out of the way, the first real day is spent with the owner or CEO and is devoted to understanding the big picture of the company – strategic value, purpose, culture, reason for existence, etc. Provide reference materials for the future.

Overall expectations of success over the first 6 months of employment should be outlined in the first day’s meeting as well. The CEO should have prepared statements such as: “By the end of 30 days my expectations are…”, “I’d like to start receiving input from you by the end of 60 days on these issues…” “Success to our customers looks like…” etc.

Go through the org chart. Share the strengths of others but not their weaknesses. Ask the new hire to come back with specific examples of the strengths of others within two weeks. Your intention is to see whether the new hire observes reasons to celebrate success and not just highlight failures.

After spending time with the CEO, I suggest that most of the remaining orientation period should be spent in sales and customer service – listening in on calls, learning the administration of the business, noting how paper flows through the company.  The point of this time is to compare through observation what customer issues really are vs. what the company story is.

During these first two weeks, a CEO wants a new employee to understand why the business exists, what the macro strategic direction of the company is, the culture, etc. through observation. Keep in mind, though, that virtually everything a new hire goes through in the first two weeks will not be remembered in much detail. By the end of the second week, the new hire will be on overload. That’s normal. To refocus the new hire, the third week should begin with the boss meeting with the new hire again and explaining: “The strategic direction I’m looking to take the business which is directly related to hiring you is….”

Throughout the first 6 months, a weekly huddle of about 10-15 minutes should take place to make yourself, as the boss, available to answer any questions, to ask questions in order to understand progress being made and to assess development.

The first 30 Days:

A new hire shouldn’t be openly questioning what he or she sees in the first weeks because it doesn’t build trust with peers or new subordinates. Other employees are already anxious. They may be wondering, “How is the new hire going to affect me”? “What’s the real agenda?”

As a boss, you’re looking for demonstrated good judgement: Is he/she answering questions without really knowing the answers just to look good? Or, is the response to others questions something like: “That’s a good point, let me find out…” or  “What do YOU think? If it were up to you, what would you do?”

At the end of the first 30 days you can assign the first big project and due date. Find something that will help the new hire feel like a valuable contributor and will also help him/her learn more about the business at the same time. Samples projects could be:

  • Looking into a cost reduction effort, or, even better, a continuous improvement observation that could be implemented.
  • Maybe you might want to assign the new hire to be on a team of other employees already involved in a customer related project.
  • Ask the person to get involved with researching a new marketing idea.

Examples of success during this time period could include:

  • Gaining the respect of peers and subordinates. He/she should be demonstrating approachability. People are not intimidated or fearful. They are asking questions and including the new hire within the group, etc.
  • The new manager demonstrates it’s not about being liked, but being respected and others are already showing respect.

At the end of 30 days, there should be no real red flags. If there are, go back to the values comparisons and reassess whether you have chosen the right person.

Between 30 and 60 days:

The new hire should be gaining the trust of employees and other managers. He/she should be taking the time to learn the business before disclosing thoughts and giving opinions – this means meeting with his/her direct reports both as a group and individually. Ideally, this should happen prior to the end of the 30 day period, but without a doubt, these meetings should be taking place.

It would be great if the new hire would be spending time walking around observing and thinking but not openly questioning. You should expect to see some cohesiveness among the new hire’s group – evidence they are working together and getting things get done.

60 Days:

At 60 days, a boss should be looking for the new hire to start asking questions – especially questions not previously discussed or previously presented. Hopefully, you hired this person to think; now he/she should start showing evidence of critical, strategic and analytical thinking such as profit margins, distribution strategies, production efficiencies, service offering, waste elimination, etc. The new manager should be asking for reports and data to organize thoughts.

90 Days:

At 90 days, the new hire should be challenging things going on within the company in conversations with the new hire’s boss. If not, I ‘d be concerned. That would be evidence this person is either not looking at the details or may not be the kind of critical thinker you’re looking for. Some observations regarding performance should be coming up in conversations with the boss as well as administrative tasks, etc.

6 Months

By the six month milestone, any new hire should be doing the job proficiently and competently. The values and purpose of the business should be nuanced into decisions. There should be alignment within his realm of responsibility. Updated roles and responsibilities for everyone under his authority should be completed and baseline performance reviews done.

Onboarding new hires needn’t be difficult, confusing or something to be feared. Spending the time at the front end of the process laying out expectations of success at each milestone ensures everyone is on the same page. Remember, at any point during the process, if questions arise about the new hire’s ability, there should be an immediate reinforcement of values. The greatest mistake bosses make is to notice deviations from what they expect and hope that with time, the new hire will “fall into line”. Rarely do new people change on their own.

Again, if you’re looking for more information about this topic, see: Onboarding a New Manager: How the CEO or Business Owner Can Ensure Success

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