Nail Executive Transitions to Avoid “Hero to Xero”

Whether they’re stepping into an existing pair of shoes or carving out a brand-new role, new leaders often face a dose of skepticism from the org. “Whether we intend it or not, a lot of people have a wait-and-see approach. We’re excited about them, but is this going to work out? Versus having a vested interest in helping make that person successful,” says Anne Raimondi, COO of Asana.

Placing new leaders on firmer ground starts during the interview process. “I firmly believe that no one should meet their new boss on the first day of the boss’s job. That’s such a terrible experience,” she says.

There may not be time to squeeze in 1:1s with each team member, but fitting in a group presentation or even a lunch-and-learn is critical to start building trust and avoiding the hero-to-zero trap. In these forums, Raimondi likes to ask people for feedback on two fronts: What they would be excited about with the new leader, and what they’re concerned about?

Next, connect the dots between the new hire and their team. “Share all of that feedback with the person you hire. It may just be, ‘We didn’t learn X about the person, or in their last role, they didn’t have responsibility for Y.’ And then you can do a risk mitigation plan for those areas. Giving input, seeing output and getting updates on their progress — then it becomes less of a wait-and-see if this person’s going to be successful,” says Raimondi.

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