Chesterfield County Accelerates Leadership Transitions

Transition Acceleration offers executives an understanding of organizational culture and politics.

By Margery Weinstein

Current research indicates that 40 percent of new executives joining organizations in key positions fail—costing the organization six times their annual salary. While that statistic is high in comparison to the reality in Chesterfield County, VA, the county’s training department felt it represented an opportunity for improvement. Chesterfield trainers believe a loss of executive leadership typically is not due to lack of talent or skill set, but due to misunderstandings or an inability to become “organizationally savvy.” With that in mind, the county launched its Transition Acceleration program. Here are the details:

  • Transition Acceleration offers executives an understanding of organizational culture and politics while providing a safety net. Guided conversations ensure that executives establish solid relationships with their boss, peers, team, and key internal and external customers; understand Chesterfield’s government culture, both at a board and leadership team level; and understand the “operational” work of the department(s) and its integration into the larger organization. Success in accelerating the transitions of all managers—whether they are being promoted from within or hired from outside—can represent a tremendous gain in performance for the organization.
  • Transition Acceleration occurs during the first 90 to 180 days of employment with a goal of reaching the break-even point as rapidly as possible, that point at which new leaders contribute as much value to the organization as they consume. This is accomplished through structured and unstructured conversations with key leaders such as the county administrator; deputy and assistant county administrators; HRM, budget, and public affairs directors; and police and fire chiefs. Each conversation is guided by a set of questions created to further explore personal and customer relationships while allowing leaders to better understand the new executive, what they bring to the county, and how they can assist in establishing positive working relationships.
  • Other tools include a facilitated conversation (New Leader & Team Assimilation Process) with his or her staff on management styles, expectations, and behaviors to get the new team excited about their new leader, as well as understanding his or her leadership and management styles. Intentional conversations between the new leader and his or her boss, subordinates, or peers focus on situational diagnosis, performance expectations, working styles, managing resources, and personal development.
  • New leaders have positively received this process as progressive, and fully engaged the structured conversations as scheduled. Intentional conversations allow leaders to quickly align with others while exploring issues, questions, and concerns identified in their initial weeks. This new program has produced positive outcomes as the county seeks to do all it can to ensure long, productive careers.

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Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.