To facilitate the development of businesses, hundreds and thousands of companies try to invite senior management leaders or specialists from competitors to join. From the perspective of a third party recruitment agency, this phenomenon is quite common in terms of the law of talent flow. Inviting and convincing a qualified leader to join a company is not an easy job for any HR professional. In addition to a huge amount of time on communicating with the potential recruit, HR managers or directors also need to tackle down every bit of concern from the leader. Given that the leader is willing to join your company, do you think it is the right time to utter a sigh of relief? Probably not, because soon there are more problems for HR managers or directors to worry about. Therefore, I would like to share some cases and practical tips in guiding airborne leaders through the first phase after changing jobs to a new company.

To illustrate the significance of guiding and training airborne leaders, I would like to start with the sensational case of Leo Apotheker, the previous CEO of Hewlett Packard (HP). Leo Apotheker is a typical example of airborne leaders. Before he joined HP in 2010, Leo was CEO of SAP, a European multinational software corporation that focuses on enterprise software. Working almost 20 years in sales, Leo did quite well in increasing sales numbers for 18 consecutive years. For HP, they had to spend a lot time convincing him to relocate to the States. However, how much time the HP board spent with him after he joined the company is a key question. When Leo joined HP, he said that he was lost in operating such a huge company. The differences between SAP and HP are huge. Either from the perspective of company management and operation or from culture shock, I understand how Leo might have felt during the first month at HP. Although the media attributes the main reason of Leo’s dismissal to his lack of ability in leading HP, I think that one issue alone is not the case. Whether HP’s senior management played their role of a good mentor, is difficult to say.

The reason why I give this example is to make it clear to HR professionals that it is very important to spend enough time with airborne leaders in their first few months at a company. Airborne leaders are not necessarily at the highest level. They can be junior managers, middle level managers and country/regional directors. No matter which level they belong to, the common problem for every airborne leader is to get used to a new environment in the first month. In this regard, I have summarized a few tips for HR professionals and management personnel to guide new airborne leaders through the very first month.

Help airborne leaders build team rapport

Before showing strong capabilities at a new company, there is something more important for a new leader to do: to build rapport. You might wonder what the word means in this context. “Rapport” is defined as the relationship based on mutual understanding and trust. People enjoy working with people they trust, which I believe is the essence of teamwork. In a financial crisis or leader scandal, teamwork from each department or the person in charge is the only solution to save the company. What should be emphasized to HR professionals is that building rapport cannot be accomplished by the new leader alone. HR managers or directors need to introduce the new manager or director to those who are at the same level or below.

Shift authority smoothly

A common mistake at the management level is to shift authority right after the new manager or director joins the company. Unfortunately, shifting power is actually one of the most difficult lessons in human resource management, in particular, the devolution of management power to people who are promoted to the management role for the first time. For instance, junior airborne managers often encounter initial difficulties in dealing with their subordinates. Another problem in shifting power lies in different types of organizational structures. There are a few organizational structure types in different companies, Including functional structures, bureaucratic structures, divisional structures and matrix structures. A manager who is used to a functional management structure might have difficulty in working out how to manage in a matrix structure. For example, a director who enjoys listening to monthly reports from managers of each department might find it difficult to cover each department’s weekly meeting. Therefore, before shifting authority, HR professionals should make sure that the airborne leaders fully understand the organizational structure as well as the management style of the company.

People enjoy working with people they trust, which I believe is the essence of teamwork.

Facilitate the optimization of talent allocation

There is an old Chinese saying, “Xin Guang Shang Ren San Ba Huo”, which means “a new broom sweeps clean”. It means that new management often makes radical changes. Radical changes happen often after a company gets an airborne managing director or a CEO. There might be changes in products, services, sales plans, marketing campaigns etc. However, the most noticeable change is often related to human resource allocation.

With huge pressure, new airborne leaders all try their best to either further develop the company or save the company from crisis. In this regard, plans are often made in a short period of time. To facilitate the work of the new leader, it is very important for the HR department to prepare those plans.

Most HR managers think that their work stops after a new candidate joins the company. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Helping these air-borne leaders build team rapport, learn company culture, become familiar with a company’s management style and recruit smart people is very important to the new leader’s performance.

(Pic via Business Tianjin)