A study of 1000 Fortune firms found that only 25% of the leaders were considered fully transitioned into their roles – performing at the expected level with the prevailing conditions and available resources*. The study was redone four years later and the number had decreased to 16%. The majority of leaders were seen as still acting like lower-level managers and individual contributors, with the remainder in mid-transition.
What does ’in-transition’ mean? This is a leader who is still becoming effective in a new role either via promotion or external recruitment, or as a result of a significant change due to a restructure or M&A. Studies show that it takes on average 6.2 months for a leader to get to the break-even point in a new or changed role (the point where they contribute as much as they take) with many taking 9-12 months depending on the role, leader and situation.
Note – the breakeven point is just that, it is still a long way to get from breakeven to optimal performance / effectiveness.
With the increasing pace of business change, the number of ‘Leaders-in-Transition’ is continuing to increase. Research has consistently shown that leaders-in-transition operate well below expected levels of performance and effectiveness. To use a sporting analogy this is similar to 70-75% of your team carrying some form of injury that allows them to play just not at 100%. Your team, or organisation, is simply not operating anywhere near optimal.
Much like the sporting analogy an argument could be made that this is the new norm and that our leaders have just learned how to ‘play with injury’. This might be the case but the overall performance is still lacking.
Failing to successfully ‘turn the corner’ in terms of a leadership transition is the overriding factor in executive derailments. When we look at leaders who are struggling we often have to look at failures during the most recent transition for the cause. Your ‘leaders-in-transition’ need support and help, doing so greatly improves their performance and that of their teams, if your organisation is one of these where change happens so regularly that it is likely the majority if your leaders are ‘in-transition’ – then this might be an area where you devote some of your L&D efforts for a leveraged ROI.