Engaging with Key Constituents

Identifying and Engaging with Key Constituents to Increase Impact and Effectiveness

Leaders who are new to a leadership role, new to the company, or recently promoted to a role of greater scope or complexity face significant challenges.   Research shows that roughly 50% of newly hired executives quit or are fired within their first three years, and up to 40% of executives who change jobs or are promoted fail during their first 18 months.

To help ensure a greater probability of new leader success, the typical executive selection process places a premium on the demonstrated ability to get things done and the projected ability to make an immediate impact.  While these are clearly positive attributes, an overreliance on an executive’s perceived natural ability to succeed often overshadows the reality that organizations are complex systems.  Effective acclimation takes focus and deliberate attention.

One of the most important yet most often overlooked components of effective onboarding is the need to quickly gain focus and alignment with three important constituent groups – your boss, direct reports, and key stakeholders.

Engaging in critical conversations with each of these important constituents will help accelerate the acclimation process by providing insight into the culture, expectations of the role, and team dynamics. These conversations provide an efficient and effective mechanism for gaining insight into the unique and important nuances of situations and relationships.  In addition, the exchange provides a foundation for clarifying and aligning your needs and expectations with the needs and expectations of your boss, your team, and your key stakeholders.



When assuming a new role or joining a new team, it is important to create a solid foundation for success by clarifying expectations with your new boss.  Essential areas of exploration and discussion include explicit and implicit expectations as well as communication preferences.

In addition, these early conversations provide insight into cultural norms and organizational context that provide clarity into not only what needs to get done but also how things get accomplished in this environment.  Important components of the critical conversation to ensure alignment with your boss include:

Discuss mutual expectations

  • What are top priorities for the first 90 days?
  • From your boss’s perspective, what does the new leader’s “success” look like? How will “success” be measured?
  • From your view, what does “success” look like? What do you need from your boss to help you get there?
  • What frequency and type of communication does the boss prefer? What do you prefer?
  • How often will the new leader and boss meet 1:1 in the first 90 days? What are the main topics these meetings will cover?
  • Are there any pet peeves or “hot buttons” that you think the other person should be aware of?

Role Clarity

  • Confirm the formal structure of the company, your new boss’ areas of responsibility, and the leadership team structure.
  • Clarify any immediate questions about which tasks belong to you, which to the boss, which somewhere else.
  • Which decisions are yours, the boss’s, or shared between the two?
  • What types of decisions require approval, consulting, and/or are subject to veto?
  • Who else is significantly involved in decision making?

Cultural Awareness

  • As a new leader, what do I need to understand about the company’s decision processes and how decisions get made?
  • What are the current “hot issues” that I should know about? Where can I go to learn more, and/or gain greater perspective?  (add to your stakeholder map)
  • What do I need to be aware of or watch out for as I am learning the organization?
  • Are there particular things that I need to do to avoid making a faux pas in this company’s culture?

Contributed by: Brian Clapp, Chief Operating Officer, CCI Consulting

Tune in next month for Part 2, ENGAGING WITH YOUR DIRECT REPORTS. To view previous blogs, click here.

Jackie Messersmith is President and CEO of Talent Management LLC. Talent Management provides consulting services to small to mid-size businesses to put a TOP™ performing company culture and talent strategy in place, and is the developer and distributor of Talent Snapshot®, an integrated, competency-based, “in the cloud” talent management solution. Jackie can be reached at 513-528-9700 or jackie@talentmanagementllc.com.