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Executive Onboarding: The Hodology Compass for Effective Leadership Integration

Navigating leadership transition in any organisation can be a challenge, even for the most seasoned professionals. Traditional executive onboarding processes often offer a roadmap to the functional 'what' but neglect the nuances of the 'why' (organisational history, politics and values) and 'who' (the new joiner's unique experience and leadership style).

And hey, we're not here to throw stones. Often, it's because executive onboarding just isn't something that happens often enough to get good at it. Or if it is, and you're onboarding members of your C-Suite every couple of months, then perhaps you have bigger problems than your executive succession process.

But taking time to understand the 'why' is critical.

A global survey of 588 senior executives who had recently transitioned into new roles found that organisational culture and politics, not lack of competence or managerial skill, were the primary reasons for failure. Almost 70% of respondents pointed to a lack of understanding about norms and practices—and their poor cultural fit was close behind.

It is even more challenging for women to integrate into leadership roles.

The identities of women leaders can fall under intense scrutiny, and they are often confronted with other's perceptions of them—perceptions that may not be wholly accurate. This gap between who they are and who they are perceived to be can derail even the most promising succession process.

A 2017 study found that this misidentification may profoundly influence women leaders in male-dominated industries, potentially damaging success, well-being and longevity in their roles and professions. Despite what our teachers said at school, being a grown-up is a popularity contest.

Matters are made worse by the best-selling guidance on moving into a new role being entirely uninformed by decades of research, which indicates that for women in leadership, it's the same game with different rules.

At Hodology, we're on a mission to help more women love leadership. This means getting succession planning and onboarding right was at the top of our list.

This is why we created the Hodology Integration Compass.

Our holistic approach to leadership integration considers organisational objectives and culture and aligns them with the individual's unique leadership style.

This article will explore why the Hodology Integration Compass offers a path to impactful leadership and how to build credibility and influence in your first 90 days.


Understanding the Integration Compass

Onboarding is such an odd way to describe integrating a new leader. It conjures images of a sink-or-swim approach to succession. Given how much it costs (time and money) to recruit a leader, onboarding seems unforgivably reckless.

This is why we developed a framework called the Hodology Integration Compass.

Our founder, Libby Vincent, created the compass as she was tasked with merging executive teams following waves of M&A activity. It has since been refined as a tool we've used to facilitate integration and as a tool we've taught our clients to use as they scale their leadership teams.

This approach combines three crucial spheres of understanding: the What, the Why, and the Who.

How does it work?

Three overlapping circles labelled 'what', 'why' and 'who'. The overlaps are labeled: what + why = aligned, what + who = informed, who + why = trusted

The 'What' represents the tools and processes of your organisation, essentially the day-to-day operational knowledge that enables the business to function.

The 'Why' dives deeper, exploring the organisation's history, values, and culture to foster a deeper understanding and alignment.

The 'Who' focuses on you, the leader - your unique experiences, leadership style, and how you will navigate and influence the organisational culture.

Instead of a race towards a break-even point, the goal of your first 90 days is seamless integration within your new professional environment. Imagine the circles drawing closer together. The intersection of all three is where great decisions are made.


Achieving Integration

Achieving proper integration in a leadership role involves creating synergies between the 'What', the 'Why', and the 'Who'.

When the 'What' (organisational processes) and the 'Why' (organisational culture) are integrated, you achieve alignment in your decision-making process.

This is because the operational realities inform your decisions and are deeply rooted in the organisation's cultural context. Once more in English? The stuff everyone does says something about who they are. You'll struggle if you try to change something they do so that it goes against who they are.

Aligning the 'what' and 'why' means your decisions are strategic and resonate with your team's shared beliefs. This means your decisions about what they do are more likely to become changes in what they do.

You need to know how things are and why they are that way.

When the 'Why' (organisational culture) and the 'Who' (your unique leadership style) are integrated, the result is trust in your decisions.

Your team (and the wider organisation) need to believe that the changes you are trying to make align with the culture and values of the organisation and show an understanding of the dynamics of the internal network.

What does this mean? They want to know that you're one of them. How do you know if you've got this wrong; "That just won't work here."

Taking time to show people who you are and care about who they are will ease the cogs of change.

Integrating the 'What' (organisational processes) and the 'Who' (your unique leadership style) enables you to transform data into meaningful information.

Information is power.

Or, more accurately, insights and information presented in a way that resonates with your learning and leadership style is influenced.

Having data processed for you in a way that allows you to readily comprehend, analyse, and apply this information in your decision-making process leads to more effective and strategic choices.


Let's break it down:

1. To understand the 'What',

  • Engage with your team and other departments

  • Attend meetings and conduct interviews

  • Use the company's tools and systems

  • Understanding the organisational processes and operational intricacies that keep the company running smoothly

  • Be proactive in getting involved in day-to-day operations

  • Ask questions to fill any gaps in your understanding

2. To comprehend the 'Why',

  • Deep dive into the organisation's history, values, and culture

  • Have conversations with long-standing employees

  • Read the company press and press releases

  • Read the results of employee surveys

  • Observe how people interact and communicate

  • Take a closer look at how people use the spaces they share

3. Finally, broadcasting the 'Who',

  • Refine your personal brand

  • Find creative ways to broadcast your personal brand

  • Create opportunities to let your unique leadership style shine

  • Showcase your skills, experiences, and personality

  • Tell your story


Hi, I'm Libby

I am a Founder, NED and Chief Special Adviser, but most of all I am a leadership nerd. Hodology is my consultancy and methodolgy.

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