A study by the Institute for Executive Development and Alexcel showed 75% of newly hired executives are having trouble with interpersonal skills (the ability to build relationships, collaborate, and influence others). A troubling finding of the study is that many of these executives had both strong technical skills and years of previous management experience and yet they lacked interpersonal skills. Technical skills and previous management experience are not a guarantee of future success, however.
Interpersonal skills become more important for managers as their responsibilities grow in an organization. On any manager’s journey to the C-Suite, his success will be increasingly tied to how others perform for him and collaborate with him. As most managers will relate, the more people a business professional has to oversee, the more complex the management and leadership functions become. Throw in any of the factors of organizational culture, organizational politics, human ambition and rivalry, resistant stakeholders and the complexity of an executive’s job is multiplied!
Since the cost to an organization of an executive’s failure is so high, companies have a financial incentive to better support executive transitions. The study’s authors recommend the following five cost-effective approaches to better support executives in their transitions:
- Create a cross-functional onboarding team of line managers, HR executives, and other appropriate professionals to support the executives’ transition.
- Make use of mentors or informal buddies.
- Create customized development plans that are targeted to the individual needs of the executives and to the requirements of the positions.
- Encourage executives to form their own group of advisers from whom they can get counsel and assistance as needed.
- Clarify who is responsible for onboarding the new executive. Make it someone’s responsibility!
In addition to these five recommendations from the study’s authors, one more recommendation I will add is for organizations to conduct a comprehensive selection and recruitment process that aligns with the responsibilities for the executive position. This will increase the odds that the executive is the right match for the position and organizational culture.
As I discussed in my earlier post, The Rise of People Skills, the need for operational efficiency and profitability is forcing organizations to put a greater emphasis on hiring and promoting leaders who have interpersonal skills. While the percentage of newly hired executives who are having interpersonal skills is high, the prescription for success is still clear however. Organizations need to support their executives as they transition them into new roles. As we know, past success is no guarantee of future success!