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“50%–60% of executives fail within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired.”
(Harvard Business Review)

“According to a survey by CareerBuilder, more than one-quarter (26%) of managers
said they weren’t ready to become a leader when they started managing others. Even
more disturbing, 58% said they didn’t receive any management training.”
(American Management Association)

The cost to replace a C-suite executive and other senior leaders can be as high as 40x
their annual salary. Forbes reported that an unplanned CEO departure costs more than
100x their salary and costs $1.8 billion more than a planned departure in shareholder
value. Direct costs of replacing an executive include: cost of an executive recruiter,
severance and golden parachutes, and time spent by other leaders to recruit, vet and
onboard a new leader. Indirect costs include: lost institutional knowledge and skill and
fallout from other leaders who may follow suit. (Leadership Turnover Costs More Than
You Think by Kim Turnage, July 2015). Given this, it would follow that not investing in a newly hired or promoted leader is penny wise and pound foolish.

The following strategy for success came about from a recent discussion between myself
and Joseph B. Hill, M.A., SVP and Chief Diversity Officer at Thomas Jefferson
University Hospitals.

Successful Onboarding for Senior Leaders
The following 5-stage process helps ensure success of a newly hired or promoted
leader. It leverages: (A) 1:1 meetings, (B) Executive coaching & 360 Assessment, and
(C) Team retreats. Consider these like three legs of a stool whereas each leg needs
greater attention at different points throughout the leader’s first year in the new role.


1) Month 1: Co-Create the Working Alliance. During the first month, the leader
meets with each direct report and “co-creates the working alliance.” During a 1
1/2 – 2-hour meeting, they share information about themselves, hopes and
expectations of each other, their vision for their professional future, and preferred
communication strategies. A separate document entitled, Co-Creating the
Working Alliance lays out this approach in more detail.

2) Months 2-3: Executive Coaching, Phase 1. Initial meetings with an executive
coach (between 2-4 coaching sessions) to help the leader create a 90-day plan,
build his/her first-year strategy, and identify potential blocks and solutions to

3) Month 3: One-Day Team Retreat. The purpose of this retreat is for team
leaders to get to know one another (even if it’s the same team with a new leader),
for the leader to share his/her vision and year 1 priorities, ensure roles,
responsibilities and expectations are clearly defined and understood, and cocreate
a set of agreements on meeting and workplace behavior.

4) Months 3-12: Executive Coaching, Phase 2 & 360 Assessment. The leader
and executive coach meet bi-weekly to develop and implement an Individual
Development Plan, create accountabilities around executing the year 1 strategy,
work through issues as they surface, and develop leadership competencies.
Towards the end of Year 1, the coach administers a 360 assessment and
reviews the findings with the leader. These findings then incorporated into the
Individual Development Plan.

5) End of Year 1: Half-Day Team Retreat. The team gets back together to review
progress on strategy execution for year 1, assess the group’s follow through on
the meeting and workplace behavior agreements (redefining if needed), and
begin to set the direction for the following year. This could be supplemented with
a team 360 or other feedback instrument, the results of which would be
discussed during the retreat

-Dr. Jeff Kaplan

Dr. Jeff Kaplan is a business psychologist and executive coach who coaches executives and high potentials to lead with heart. Jeff helps leaders to work more collaboratively with others, recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest asset.[:]