Surveys report that 25 percent of people who move into a new job will fail

Rebecca SchalmWhat happens when leaders take on new roles or responsibilities in their company?

‘Onboarding’ – the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new team members, whether from outside or inside the company – has focused almost exclusively on employees who join from the outside. But there is usually a lot more internal movement than external hiring. Just because someone already knows a company, does it make their transition easy? I didn’t think so, and neither do the statistics.

Surveys report that 25 percent of people who move into a new job will fail. You don’t want to be one of those statistics. Paying attention to six common mistakes will help you make a smooth, successful transition.

Mistake No. 1: Assume you know what is expected of you

Six mistakes people make when they start a new job


One of the biggest complaints we heard from new leaders was a lack of clarity around the role and their boss’ expectations. A key reason for this is that there isn’t enough candid conversation before or after the move. Would you take a job at a different company without thoroughly investigating it and spending time with your new boss discussing her expectations? Put the assumptions aside and start asking questions – even if you think they are dumb. How does your boss see the role? What does he expect you to accomplish? How will that be measured? What do other people expect from you?

Mistake No. 2: Assume you have relationships with the right people

When people join a new company, they invest a lot of energy in building relationships with stakeholders. They know that these are critical to getting things done. When you move inside your company, you might assume you already know everyone. The reality is relationships are a lot more complicated than that – you take your history with you. If you have been promoted, people who used to be your superiors are now your peers. People who used to be peers are now subordinates. Not everyone will be happy with this arrangement, and not everyone will make it easy. A good strategy is to sit down and map out your stakeholders and realistically assess the history and strength of your relationship. You need to re-contract all of your pre-existing relationships, and you may need to build some bridges.

Mistake No. 3: Assume the culture is the same

Every function, every team, every level in a company has its own culture. Your job is to understand how it differs from what you are used to, and what you need to do to adjust to it. For people who are promoted, operating at a new level of team dynamics and politics often comes as a shock. The sooner you figure out nuances around group culture and norms, the faster you’ll fit in.

Mistake No. 4: Forget to earn the credibility of others

When people come from the outside, they spend their first 90 days working on an early win. They know it is critical to demonstrate why they were hired. Internal transfers sometimes forget that their colleagues are waiting for them to prove themselves, too. People want to know why you got that promotion or were assigned to that high-profile project. It is not enough to rely on your history. You need to prove yourself.

Mistake No. 5: Take too long to figure out what you don’t know

It can be tough to admit what you don’t know when you’ve just been picked for a new job. After all, you’ve been around. People are expecting you to know, aren’t they? But the likelihood that you are going to walk in and not know everything is pretty high. Figure out what that is sooner rather than later, and don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions.

Mistake No. 6: Ignore your development gaps

Every new job demands new things from you, things you may not have done before. You may need to delegate more, think more strategically, influence more effectively. Leaders often assume they are ready for a new job. We found that in the beginning, 75 percent believe they are adequately prepared and have the capabilities to be successful. By month 10, this drops to 40 percent. Don’t just talk about your strengths; learn to leverage them. But don’t ignore your development gaps. Address them before they become derailers.

Rebecca Schalm, PhD, is founder and CEO of Strategic Talent Advisors Inc., a consultancy that provides organizations with advice and talent management solutions.

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