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On track for the top or heading for derailment?

Hiring a new executive into an organisation is a significant undertaking, demanding not only a rigorous search process, but also significant investment in planning their arrival and integration into the business. It is not sufficient to leave them to ‘bed in’ and find their own way around. Most of us have heard of cases where highly talented and knowledgeable individuals have experienced a short-lived move caused by problems surfacing in the early stages of their transition. Often, these could have been anticipated and relate to an inability to read the corporate ‘mood music’, poor interpersonal skills or a failure to negotiate organisation politics. These are all ‘derailers’ that can compromise otherwise successful careers.

Wickland Westcott is frequently retained to work with organisations and individuals, helping them navigate their way into the new working relationship through a tailored assessment during the recruitment process. This helps to minimise the risk associated with a critical appointment, identifying potential problems before the deal is sealed.

Using a combination of personality and motivation profiling, tests of critical thinking ability, case studies and competency-based interviews, a picture is formed of the candidate’s strengths and development areas. Potential problems can include issues with workload prioritisation, delegation, leadership style or presentation skills. These practical aspects are usually relatively easy to identify and rectify through development strategies.

The assessment process also highlights less tangible behaviours which can be deal breakers and harder to pin down, sometimes only emerging when the new executive is in post and under pressure. Although colleagues around the new hire soon become aware of these problems, they are unlikely to provide direct feedback. Bosses may also ignore them, avoiding difficult conversations, all of which leaves the individual blissfully unaware of their impact on those around them.

For hiring companies, an assessment process designed to anticipate these issues, provide structured feedback and facilitate a development programme, will help keep the individual on course and ensure harmonious and productive working relationships.

For the new hire, how can they ensure that they settle in as quickly and painlessly as possible? Based on Wickland Westcott’s experience, there are five steps which every executive should bear in mind as they move up the ladder or cross over into a new organisation:

  1. Work hard to understand the corporate culture; the written and unwritten rules which define what is acceptable and “how we do things around here.” Once clear on this, embrace the spirit of the organisation and project a positive and upbeat attitude.
  2. Network furiously. Cultivate relationships across the organisation, seek to understand others’ perspectives and how they do things; seek out allies – seasoned campaigners who will give advice and guidance at those critical moments.
  3. Establish clear understandings with the boss; undoubtedly the most critical relationship in any career move. Agree on priorities, flexibility on deadlines, how to deal with conflicting objectives and the frequency of reporting back on progress and alerting to issues arising.
  4. Focus on agreed priorities. Delegate the small tasks and some of the big stuff, grow the team by giving them the opportunity to make their own decisions and encourage them to try things.
  5. Continuously seek active feedback. Encourage discussions on how things were handled, how things could have been done differently and how people felt about this; welcome others’ perspectives and respect their expertise.

Armed with this knowledge, the ‘new kid on the block’ can quickly demonstrate that they understand the business, develop healthy relationships with colleagues across the organisation and make sure they stay on track to rise to the very top.

For more information regarding executive assessment call Laura Oliver on 01625 508100

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