New leaders are expected to hit the ground running, but they need help settling.

When a new leader is taken on at a retail business - especially at a senior director level - it is often assumed they will know what to do and how to do it. But the reality is that most would probably welcome some sort of guidance along the way.

A glance through retail leaders whose tenure was short lived indicates just how much their work is scrutinised. A failure to deliver in the early days means they may as well wave goodbye to their new role.

Consequently, providing coaching on assuming new roles is becoming increasingly popular. “It’s something we spend a lot of time on because if you don’t support people emotionally through that first period you can find they go off track,” says Fran Minogue, partner at headhunters Heidrick & Struggles.

Fiona O’Keefe, global marketing director at leadership performance company First 100, says: “The first 100 days of a new role has a major effect on the success of an appointment and people will judge very quickly,” she says. And the fast-paced nature of retail means it’s even more important. “Executives in retail need to accelerate to perform and constantly deliver better and faster in their roles or they won’t survive,” she says. “When they start a new role they need to be able to set a clear direction, bring people with them and focus on getting real tangible results early on,” she adds.

An important factor for success includes ensuring new leaders have teams that complement them. “One of the key things is getting the right team. If they are not the right people then they need to start hiring a new team and have them in place by the end of the first 100 days,” she says.

O’Keefe adds: “Some executive coaching is around underperformance but this is about accelerating performance.” But often coaching is something that gets overlooked because businesses have spent so much money on hiring top people they assume a support structure is not needed. “The more senior you are, the more lonely it can be at the top because you are left to your own devices and sometimes people are set up to fail.”

Ultimately, hiring good talent doesn’t just stop at the recruitment stage. Just as trainees need to be supported at one end of the spectrum, so do top-level recruits. Every company culture is different and that person has not done that specific role before. O’Keefe says: “While induction is more about processes this is about developing performance.” Minogue agrees: “It’s a big issue. While you may get a brief that is very rational on the recruitment side, not enough time is spent on the cultural side.”

If a new leader doesn’t deliver, it can be highly negative for the business. A full assessment of the cultural issues is essential if employers want to minimise that risk.


  • Realise that support goes beyond recruitment
  • Help them understand the cultural side of the business
  • Ensure the new boss is setting a clear direction and bringing people with them
  • Strive for early results that prove the appointment was a good one