Don’t Make this Mistake in Executive Assimilation


There’s no getting around it: executive assimilation is hard.

Failure rates are high. Based on current statistics, a new executive has about a coin flip’s chance of working out. Pressure is intense – personally, new executives have a lot riding on their success in-role, and the organizations they represent certainly do, too. At the top level, the stakes are intimidating.

Given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that failure rates for new executives are uncomfortably high.

But success is much more likely if you don’t make this mistake:

Seeking to impress before seeking to help.

The desire to impress in-role is understandable. New executives often feel the weight of expectations and believe that they have to achieve success quickly. So, they act accordingly. There is, legitimately, something to prove.

But, somewhat ironically, the best way to impress in a new role is by succeeding – and the best way to succeed is to focus on adding value rather than impressing.

So, as a new executive, seek to help first.

Here’s how that plays out.

1. You can ditch the 100-day plan.

The 100-day plan is a technique specially designed to impress. The board will be impressed by your initiative. Your employees will be impressed by your leadership. You’re coming out shooting.

The only problem is, you’re almost certainly off-target.

As a new executive assimilating to a new position and culture, the bottom-line truth is that you don’t have a full enough understanding of your context to craft a comprehensive, reliable plan of action right off the bat.

That’s not to question your competence – you’ve been selected to an executive position for a reason, and you’ll certainly be expected to contribute ideas and direction. But before you have context, you’re flying blind.

And while a 100-day plan may sound impressive, if it’s pitched by a leader without context, it’s unhelpful – and potentially really harmful.

Here’s what you should do instead.

2. Gather input and get buy-in.

Seeking input and buy-in isn’t as impressive as coming out shooting – but it’s far more helpful. And it’s infinitely more likely to lead to success.

Your new team will appreciate a chance to be heard. And because they’re experienced with company context and culture, they’ll be likely to have valuable input, too.

We recommend seeking input from everyone who you’ll need to align to successfully enact an agenda. This might mean meeting with 15 people; it might mean meeting with 400 people. Once you’ve done this, look for ways to incorporate their good ideas – and even their language – into your strategies.

Although gathering input may sound time-consuming, the reality is that taking the time to do it actually leads to quicker results than you’d achieve by acting first. An agenda can be accomplished much more quickly by a fully committed team than by a new executive pushing against the crowd.

3. Communicate as clearly as possible.

Finally, seek to help in communication by being as clear about expectations as possible.

There’s an unfortunate misconception that less communication adds to an aura of authority. Sure, it can be impressive to throw down initiatives without context, or to let unspoken expectations be a bar for performance. But it’s not helpful.

Unclear communication creates an environment of confusion and fear. And it can create unnecessary hurdles to employees who just want to do their jobs and help the company succeed.

At the end of the day, the majority of your people want to make you happy – their jobs depend on it. So, set them up to make that happen. Don’t keep them guessing.

Be helpful. Communicate clearly, and do it more, not less.

Set Yourself Up for Successful Executive Assimilation

Yes, there’s a lot of pressure riding on success in a new role. On some level, all new executives have a desire to impress. It’s human nature.

But seeking to impress is dangerous. And a mindset of helpfulness can lead to quicker results. Seek to add value instead of acting blindly and remember humility instead of falling into hubris, and you’ll have a far greater chance at succeeding as a new executive.

Looking for more guidance?

At Emily Bermes + Associates, we help new leaders to assimilate successfully at a rate drastically above industry average. We use a unique three-pronged approach, blending Success Factor Profiling with New Leader Assimilation exercises and ongoing Executive Coaching to bombproof any officer-level appointment.

Through our work together, new or newly-promoted executives start in-role fully understanding stakeholder expectations, empowered to navigate the corporate culture, and armed with the context they need to quickly align their teams. This combination allows them to execute on expectations more quickly, with less hesitation and while making fewer costly mistakes.

Learn more about our executive assimilation services or get in touch with us today.