How to Ask for an Onboarding Coach for Your New Executive Role

By Jennifer Eggers, Andersen Alumnus, and President of LeaderShift Insights, Inc.

As the excitement of landing a new executive role sinks in, the pressure begins. How will you come in and demonstrate visible leadership in your first 100 days? How will you make a significant enough contribution early on to validate the company’s choice in hiring you and ensure the street ‘cred’ necessary to become both an influential player on the leadership team and earn the respect of your direct reports and peer team quickly?

Taking a new leadership role, even in the same organization, often feels like drinking from a fire hose. You’ve got to get to know the industry, the company, your team, your peers, your leadership and how to get things done in a complex environment fast…all while adding value and being the rock star expert they hired. It is hard not to become overwhelmed…and most of our clients tell us they don’t want to reveal that either.

The data shows that rigorous new leader integration programs can shorten time to productivity by 40% and improve new hire retention by 50%, yet most Fortune 500 companies, even with sophisticated HR teams fail to provide comprehensive on-boarding and assimilation programs that do this well. So, the question is, what can YOU do to take control of your integration so it goes smoother and sets you up as a visible leader fast, regardless of what their HR team provides?

The good news is that you are not alone. Executive transitions are high stakes, high stress events, for both you and the company that hired you. The risk of failure is great, but there is significant expertise available to help you mitigate risk and integrate effectively.

But how do you come in as the expensive rock-star they hired and ask for a coach? It’s a gutsy move, but it may be the smartest one you’ll ever make. A great onboarding coach can be worth their weight in gold to both you and the company, if brought in early in the integration process. The catch is that they might not think of it and you might have to ask for one… and asking might be one of the first things you do in your new role. Here are a couple strategies to help you make the case:

  1. Try to negotiate it with your offer. Your success is not only in your best interest, it is in the best interest of the company, your team and the recruiter who hired you. Give some thought to the value you can bring if you are able to accelerate your integration to full productivity faster. Then give some thought to the consequences if you don’t. Quantify both wherever possible. Consider both the positive and negative impact on the business, your new team, you personally, the recruiter, the HR team, and your boss. A thorough list will provide a lot of fodder for you to make a solid case for an onboarding coach.
  2. Have your coach start before you do. An onboarding coach with the right set of questions can meet with HR, the recruiter, and a set of key stakeholders before you step foot in the door. There is an enormous advantage in having an advocate on day one who understands critical stakeholder expectations of you; picks up on any misalignment, cultural nuances, things to do/not do right up front; understands the legacy of your predecessors and key messages you need to send right away. Of course, you’ll likely learn all this eventually, but imagine having it all before you walk in the door so you can plan your first steps accordingly. This can literally shave months off your ‘ramp up’ time.
  3. Present the idea with confidence. Accelerating your integration and reducing the risk of a failed hire is not a remedial intervention. Rigorous executive integration programs are common at many Fortune 500 companies. You can ask with the confidence that this is a best practice and probably the surest way to ensure your success. Your coach will provide an objective point of view and act as a confidential thought partner to plan your transition in a way that not only sets you up to demonstrate visible leadership quickly, but also to sustain your growth and deepen relationships in the organization long after the engagement is over.

There are a few factors that could increase the justification for an onboarding coach. Certainly, the higher the level of investment the organization is making in your role, the less likely they will be willing to risk failure and the smaller percentage the coach’s fee will be. If your new role is building a new function or providing a new capability, it will also be more reasonable to consider coaching. The speed with which the company would like to see results can also provide a reason to ensure acceleration.

If you are considering onboarding and integration coaching for yourself or for new executives in your organization and would like help thinking through whether it would be a fit, call us. It’s what we do.

Jennifer Eggers is the President of LeaderShift Insights, Inc. She has coached Presidents and C-Level leaders in over half the 50 states and 11 countries. She works with senior leaders and organizations facing disruption to improve their capacity to adapt and resilience in the face of change.