Aquino Consulting | Sink or Swim
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Sink or Swim

Sink or Swim

You have mixed emotions; excited, nervous, terrified, optimistic, happy.  It’s the first day of the next chapter in your leadership journey.  Ah, the anticipation! You can hardly contain yourself but will remain cool as a cucumber.

When you arrive, you begin to get a sense that the company wasn’t quite prepared for your arrival. No biggie, right? Things happen and going with the flow is the name of the game. But then after weeks 3 or 4, things still seem a bit haphazard and disorganized.  You maintain your composure because, after all, you’ve been in this role before. After completing mandatory training, you’re thrown right into the mix and start doing your thing.  You begin to wonder, “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” Prayer and deep breaths go a long way.

Can you relate?  If so, you’re not alone.

Ideally, someone in the company will play the role of preceptor during your first few months. You’ll get the lay of the land, understand who the players are, and learn how to effectively navigate your new role and fit into the company’s culture. That’s swimming. The alternative can quickly lead to a sinking feeling, like quicksand for some, and drowning for others.

In reality, there are multiple competing priorities, and businesses have to find a way to squeeze onboarding onto the list. Depending on the size of an organization, Human Resources may play a significant role in onboarding while companies with fewer resources struggle in this area.

There’s an oldie-but-goodie HBR article ( that notes the value of preparing for a new hire and includes practical onboarding tips. If you need a checklist, take a peek at  There are a ton of resources out there that may guide you on how to set up a good onboarding program for your newbies.

Based on my work with healthcare leaders transitioning into a new company or new role, below are several tips that would add value to a new leader’s onboarding experience.

·         Have a written plan! If you’re short on time, the plan should cover at least the first two weeks of activity. During their first week, you should start working on the written plan for weeks 3 to 4.

·         You may find this cheesy, but small touches can go a long way. Create a ‘Welcome’ sign for your new employee and have some flowers waiting on her desk. Allergies? No problem- move the flowers to YOUR desk. It’s the thought that counts.

·         Hiring manager- call the new hire within a week before she walks through the door. Express your excitement for having her join the organization. Get a sense if she is clear on what the plan is for day 1; where to go, who will greet her, general itinerary, etc. If you can’t make the call, designate someone on your team that will be spending significant airtime with her.

·         Wait, what? The new hire’s computer and phone didn’t arrive on time? Have a plan B! A monkey wrench thrown into the mix or technical difficulties are not uncommon. Stay ahead of it by having other activities planned. Although, if a written plan had been created well in advance, perhaps this hiccup could have been avoided. Just sayin’

·         Schedule a get-to-know-you/assimilation session with her leadership team (direct reports).  Ideally, it should occur within the first few days. Have someone external to your department facilitate the discussion. This forum can provide her direct reports with an opportunity to ask questions and get to know their new leader. Once she hits the ground running, there will likely be zero time to do this which equals a missed opportunity

·         Schedule lunch with your new hire within the first week. Yes, I know you’re busy. Like NIKE, Just Do It

·         Schedule meet-and-greets with the principal stakeholders within the first several weeks. She should get to know those she will be working closely with before the swimming begins

I can go on and on, but I won’t. As the saying goes, “You have only one chance to make a good first impression.”  Make it good!




The template includes:

·         New leader onboarding best practices  

·         Onboarding roadmap

·         Onboarding Checklist

·         Progress report


Thanks for checking out this article!










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