Remote Onboarding: 7 ideas to help leaders transition to a new role

Leaders transitioning into a new role bring with them fresh ideas and great energy. They want to hit the ground running and make their mark. But, many leaders are wondering how can they do so in the context of today’s workplace? 

As the pandemic continues, so too, will our need to work remotely. Leaders are also joining teams where its members are grappling with tremendous uncertainty, and a wide range of unique and highly personal experiences. A recent report found that 2 in 5 Canadian workers say their mental health is worse than before the pandemic. Adding to this a recent McKinsey & Company report suggests 25% of women are considering downshifting their work commitments or even leaving their company altogether. Similar studies are popping up across the globe.  

There’s good news. Much of the great thinking around good leadership transitions still hold true in today’s context. You can learn more about these by reviewing practical advice offered by leading consultanciesacademic institutions and executive search firms. However, these principals will need to be adjusted for our unprecedented times.   

Below are 7 adjustments you can make to your transition plan, most of which I shared briefly in my latest TILTCO Talk:  

  1. Set up to show up. Understand how technology is used in your new organization. Is this a Zoom-for-every-meeting culture, or a mix of video and phone calls? Get to know the suite of tools used and how they work. You’ll also want to connect with the technology team to ensure you can seamlessly access and use the tools.  
    As a second step, you’ll want to set up your workspace to create an inviting and distraction-free virtual environment. Position your camera at eye level, work in a bright spot or bring in more lighting, and check your sound quality. You may also want to consider how to reconfigure your background to better reflect your personality.  
  1. Connect, at a human level, first. Remember, everyone is experiencing this pandemic in different ways. So, you’ll want your first one-on-one meetings to be an opportunity to connect personally with the individuals on your team. Ask them how they’re doing and how you can support them. Take advantage of the virtual context by looking for clues in the background of their videos – what can you learn about them, their home life or their interests. This MIT talk on leading transitions through disruptive times, led by Senior Lecturers Hal Gregersen and Roger Lehman, offers some great stories and insights on how to rethink and invest in these first interactions.  
    To encourage this connection be ready to share more about you as you interact with your team in one-on-ones and during regular team meetings. Let them know who you are, what you value and what the impact of COVID-19 has been on you personally.  
  1. Construct ways to see your team in action. As important as it is to get to know your team members individually, you’ll also want to see how they come together as a team. Carefully construct team “off-sites” and provide opportunities to problem solve. You can also use team and individual assessment tools to learn more about your team’s strengths and challenges.  
    By taking these steps leaders can fulfill one of the most important pieces of advice I offer new leaders. That is, to quickly assess and form your immediate team. This inner circle will help you move forward on your top priorities.  
  1. Do your homework. You won’t have as many casual opportunities to asks questions as you work remotely, so you’ll need to be self-sufficient. Read everything you possibly can – this includes strategy documents, operational reports, Covid-19 recovery plans and policies, employee engagement results, performance reports, and more.   
    You’ll also want to set up an extensive listening tour – a set of one-on-one interviews with people inside and outside the organization at every level to ask what’s working well and what could be done even better.  
    To help make sense of the vast information you’ll be gathering, set up a regular call with a small team of 1 to 2 individuals whom you can ask questions, test what you’re hearing and gather more information and insights. 
  1. Create a predictable communications cadence. As you transition into your role, be ready to over communicate. In your first days on the job, schedule regular one-on-ones, team meetings and all-hands calls so people know when they can expect to hear from you. Challenge yourself and your team to incorporate two-way communications each time, using real-time surveys, online questions, live-polls, open questions or anything to help people share their feedback with you. On top of this, you can share more about you, what you’re learning and any decisions you’re making on a personal blogs or vlogs.  
  1. Be practical and patient. As a new leader, you’ll undoubtedly bring new ideas and energy to the team. But, right now, many leaders and team members I’m speaking to have a strong desire for focus and action. Take more time than you might in a normal transition period to understand and support inflight work before launching a big change agenda or campaign. I promise you, there will be time for change.  
  1. Take care of yourself. Finally, make sure you are setting yourself up for personal resiliency during these times. What other personal commitments will be demanding care and attention as you transition into your new role? Have you got a plan in place for these? What do you personally need to do to maintain good mental and physical health? Have you hardwired those into your calendar? Have you shared these commitments and needs with your team so they can support you in your own success?