How to Double the Chance of Your New Leader’s Success

By Sara Shondrick, PhD, ACC

Picture this:

After weeks or months of interviewing, your organization hires a remarkably qualified senior leader who seamlessly steps into her new role.

She quickly builds trust and engagement amongst her team, who admire her expertise, authenticity, and ability to break down walls and eliminate obstacles that have been haunting the team for ages.

Her colleagues repeatedly pull you aside to sing her praises and share stories regarding all the ways she’s been able to quickly and positively impact the business. A year later, the team’s performance has never been stronger and her customers have never been happier.

Everyone sails off happily ever after into the sunset while high-fiving and drinking champagne. Mission accomplished.

That's how new leadership hires always go, right?

Unfortunately, not quite.

This type of smooth leadership transition is far from the norm. In fact, it’s now commonly recognized that a significant proportion of newly placed leaders will flounder within their first two years:

  • McKinsey reports that anywhere between 27-46% of executive transitions are regarded as failures or disappointments within the first two years.
  • Nearly half of all leaders who move into new roles fail to meet their objectives, and two-thirds don’t adapt quickly enough to meet their goals (Gartner)
  • Externally hired executives may struggle the most, with one report that nearly 50% of externally hired executives – versus 35% of internally promoted leaders – fall short of performance expectations (Leadership Transitions Report).

Successful leadership transitions are critical for businesses

The consequences of failed transitions don’t just cause a major blow to the individual leader’s career. They pose substantial financial and engagement risks to organizations. The fallout, including recruitment, selection, onboarding, and training fees, can cost the organization up to 10x the executive’s salary – and even more for departing CEOs (People + Strategy).

On the other hand, companies that successfully onboard and retain talent have 2.5x the revenue growth and 1.9x higher profit margins compared to their competitors (Boston Consulting Group).

Further, when a leadership transition is successful, the team is much more likely to meet their 3-year performance goals and have higher engagement and lower team attrition (CEB, as cited in McKinsey).

But organizations have the power to do more

Despite the importance of successful leadership transitions, many organizations under-emphasize the amount of time and support transitioning leaders need to be fully effective:

  • While many organizations focus on the first 90 days, Egon Zehnder found that 57% of executives took six months or more to reach full impact in their last new role – 18% required 9 months or more. Nearly 40% of the 588 executives they surveyed reported that their last experience assuming a new role was difficult.
  • Transitioning leaders need more support, and they need high-quality support for a longer period than many recognize – even Michael Watkins, author of the highly popular The First 90 Days, argues that Onboarding Isn’t Enough.

Transition coaching doubles the chance of leadership transition success

Executive transitions are both high in stakes and stress. They can either catapult the business forward or cause it to fall behind.

Notably, tailored executive coaching has proven to be a game-changer for executives, doubling the likelihood of transition success (Wheeler, 2008; as cited in McKinsey, 2018) and potentially helping to accelerate the successful integration of these leaders by up to 40% (Egon Zehnder).

To effectively navigate leadership transitions, leaders need to focus on a multitude of factors, from ensuring aligned role expectations and forming effective stakeholder partnerships to building influence, handling mistakes, and adapting to politics and expectations.

This comprehensive set of skills demands a tailored approach to leadership development, extending beyond traditional onboarding processes to truly focus on leader integration.

Set your leaders up for success with Mix Coaching

If you’re ready to set your transitioning leaders up for success, our transition coaching package provides newly placed executives with monthly or biweekly sessions with our executive coach and support between sessions via tailored developmental resources and behavioral/reflective practices designed to accelerate each leader’s ability to deliver results.

We go beyond placing leaders to help them reach and expand their potential using evidence-based practices designed by our team of I/O psychologists.

We believe so much in the power of transition coaching that we offer 3 months of free coaching with our retained search engagements.

Ready to get started? Get in touch today by filling out a contact form or reaching out to Sara at to learn more.

About the author

Sara Shondrick, PhD, ACC

Director, Leadership Coaching

As the founder and head of Mix’s coaching practice, Sara’s mission is to help leaders get unstuck and lead with greater passion, purpose, and confidence so they can create a better world. She is a leadership coach and consultant with 15+ years of experience partnering with senior leaders from startups to the Fortune 100.

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