Less of the sink, more of the swim

Less of the sink, more of the swim
Less of the sink, more of the swim

The Centre for Creative Leadership reports that around half of executive appointments are deemed failures within their first 18 months… 

There are often many reasons given for this by both the executive and their boss but, in most cases, the perception and realities of the organisation’s challenges have become misaligned once the new executive is on board. Combine this with higher expectations for performance and lower levels of patience for results than ever before, and you can appreciate why the success of a new leader has the same odds as a coin toss.

So, why do companies and executives keep making the same mistakes? The blame game comes into play, the executive blames the company and the company blames the executive – however, it’s usually much more complicated.

There will have been excitement and a real desire for the appointment to succeed by both parties. The executive has beaten off stiff competition during the interview process and will have demonstrated prior achievements, be intelligent, suitably qualified and referenced – but it’s the potential pitfalls of failure which haven’t been identified.

According to research by the Centre for Creative Leadership the reasons for failure include:

  • An inability to build key relationships
  • Being too slow in learning and adapting to the organisation’s culture
  • Wrongfully assuming that what has worked for them before will be successful again
  • Neglecting to manage the differences between the perceived role and the realities of the actual role

It’s worth noting that sometimes it’s just a case of the wrong person for the role, but these risks should be mitigated. It starts right at the outset of the hiring process by using a robust and evidence-based assessment model which is focussed on the behavioural and functional competencies required for the candidate to – not only get the job – but to also be successful once on board.

It has also been proven that newly appointed executives who have a clear structure to their on-boarding, along with the time and support to formulate plans and ideas, are more successful than executives who are expected to ‘sink or swim’ – an approach which is all too commonly utilised with senior hires!


When executives in a new position don’t build a strong foundation early on in their incumbency, they will struggle to gain the right traction in their role and the consequence can be a serious waste of talent. It often results in them never fulfilling their early promise and potential, and negatively impacts on their influence and credibility as a leader.

Executives in this position shouldn’t be left to simply battle through with sheer resilience until success has been achieved – particularly when there are solutions available for organisations to increase the volume of executives who reach their optimal level of effectiveness, become an integral driving force for the business, and which ultimately offers them both parties the best possible chance of success.

In response to this, 6 Group developed the Accelerated Performance Programme (APP) designed to prepare and support the incoming executive and their new employer by:

  • Defining the expectations of the appointment to create alignment
  • Determining what success looks like
  • Establishing a sense of urgency
  • Constructing powerful and useful coalitions
  • Creating an impactful and compelling vision
  • Developing a plan for short-terms wins
  • Generating momentum
  • Consolidating and building on early successes
  • Sustaining high levels of performance

The Society for Human Resource Management estimates costs associated with the poorly managed identification, assessment and on-boarding of a new executive to be as high as five times their annual salary and could be even higher when missed business opportunities and poor financial performance are considered. With this in mind, companies would do well to take additional precautions to protect their investment by ensuring their newly hired executives do not fall victim to the 50% failure statistic.

Today, the negative impacts and costs associated with poor hiring decisions have become even starker due to skills shortages and a more risk-averse candidate market. To combat this, creating a platform which enables executives to perform at their full potential and become effective leaders from day one through use of a supportive, structured and transparent on-boarding programme can provide organisations with a huge competitive advantage.


Ensuring a new hire becomes a net contributor of value much sooner than usual is the mantra of our Accelerated Performance Programme (APP). To learn how the APP could work for you, get in touch.

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