Leader Transitions: Create a Path, Connect, and Achieve Results Fast

March 2021 | By ALULA

The phrase transition plans, change in control, new leaders at the top, assimilation, and onboarding have dominated the media since January, as changes in governments’, corporations’ and other organizations’ leadership occurred.

Talk of “100-day plans” has become a frequent topic of discussion. But why do these plans get so much attention and why are they important?


Personal experience from partnering with many Fortune 500 executives on their 100-day plans (aka transition plans), along with our firm’s and others’ research, quickly answer both these questions.

  • Perceptions of the leader’s abilities are formed within their first 5 days in the role
  • Expectations for the leader to show results improvements begin within the first 30 days
  • New leaders often learn cultural nuances and “ways of working” by trial and error over time
  • It typically takes 6–12 months for a new leader to fully come on board
  • About 60% of all leaders fail within 2 years of their assignment

Organizations spend millions each year to select key leaders, but little on ensuring their successful transitions. Companies focus intently on attraction, selection and general onboarding, but once leaders actually have to start performing, they are largely on their own.

New leaders face other challenges, too. They will not get crucial feedback on how they are doing because people won’t be comfortable giving someone they don’t know yet constructive, or even positive feedback. This period is the very time they need it most! They also are unlikely to hear the expectations from their team, their peers, the Board, or their sponsors, although they will be quickly measured against those expectations. In fact, we have found in many cases, key stakeholders aren’t even aligned on their expectations, a fact unknown to the new leader.

Most leadership transitions are regarded as sink-or-swim propositions, and even talented leaders can sink. Sometimes weak leaders stay afloat long enough to do serious damage to their teams and/or companies. The trick to avoiding these situations is not leaving the transition to chance.

Get Connected and Get Results Fast

Increasing the speed for new leaders to align with their stakeholders and become productive is a huge strategic advantage.  ALULA has helped thousands of leaders transition into their new positions in multiple industries around the world. This experience has proven that when leaders have an easy-to-follow process that defines a clear path for them and their teams to follow, they more quickly align on performance expectations, goals, behaviors, and a plan of action for the next 100 days.

If you are a leader readying for or already engaged in a transition, consider taking these steps to quickly connect with your stakeholders and start getting results.

  1. Get expectations on the table
    Right from the start, leaders need to know what is and is not expected and it is far beyond a list of performance goals. It means filling them in on the behaviors that are and are not accepted in the culture. Leaders need to know what the “stakes in the ground” are and begin their role with an open and honest baseline for working with their team, peers, and other associates. Identify those actions and behaviors of the new leader and team members that are absolutely critical – and those that are critical to avoid.
  2. Take stock of the business 
    Leadership transitions often require a turnaround or boost in sagging performance. This won’t happen simply because there’s a new decision maker at the table. The leader needs to have meaningful dialogue with her/his team, sponsors, and stakeholders about issues important to the business and what it will take to hit key targets.
  3. No news is bad news 
    In a new position, nothing is louder than silence. Leaders need feedback, especially when they are in a new role and/or in an unfamiliar environment. The “rules” may be quite different, and they are likely to need help getting started. Without reliable honest feedback, it is nearly impossible to make any adjustments with confidence. Leaders and their teams need to know early and often when they are doing well or not.
  4. Clear the air 
    Past performance problems, interpersonal conflicts among team members, or hidden agendas will quickly derail a leader’s best efforts if not dealt with from the start. They will consume time and energy and divert attention from delivering results. Leaders need to get these issues out on the table in a confidential, constructive way and lay out a clear path for moving forward.
  5. Get everyone on the same page 
    The team members and their leader need to agree upfront on how decisions will be made and how they will work together. A great deal of confusion and wasted effort can be avoided if everyone on the team agrees to and practices making decisions as a team.

Invest the Time

Putting time and energy into rapid and effective leadership transitions is an investment in results. The sooner the team members and their leader are clicking, the sooner they can meet and surpass their goals. Transition plans help new leaders and their teams get the ball rolling using the process, tools and support they need to assimilate without missing a beat.

Leaving the transition to chance is a gamble. Take the actions to ensure the leader thrives. It will send a strong message to the leader, his/her peers, the team and all the other talented leaders for whom your organization will be competing in the coming years. Guard your investment in your leaders and don’t leave the process to chance!


Topics: Leadership, New Leader Transitions


Written by ALULA