Onboarding: A Unique Journey for each New Field Leader

One characteristic of effective onboarding is individualization (See Introductory Post – Feb. 15, 2012).  Now I can hear your groans and questions, “How can we do this with our limited resources?”; “You mean we can’t have a workshop for new leaders?”  First, yes, you can have a workshop and other developmental strategies like coaching, reflection times, self-directed learning, etc.

Individualization actually implies that regardless of the help or training given, the ideas and perspectives must be translated for the specific field leader in a distinct situation.   For example, a workshop that covers foundational field leader issues needs to be interpreted for each leader through individualized workshop exercises and follow-up activities.  These can be combined with other coaching and growth events that prepare him/her for an effective transition into the new field leader role during the onboarding year.

Perhaps we can best illustrate the need for individualized application by looking at a scenario of a team needing a new team leader.

Scenario:  This team has been in a limited access country for over 15 years.  Over the last six months, the original team leader has been diagnosed with a serious illness and has left the field.  The team has 13 members and would consider itself effective.  The team members have learned to minister in a tough situation and a group of believers has been formed. Yet, some younger team members believe the ministry should be renovated.  

The organization has identified the following three candidates as possible team leaders.  As you read each person’s short bio, consider how you would need to help them become effective as a new team leader.

Bill is a long time leader in Africa and well known throughout the organization.  He and his wife feel a call to a restricted access country since their children have left home.  Bill is known as an effective collaborator with African leaders, and has been much honored by them.

Sue has been on this team for 10 years.  She has been an effective mentor of those following Isa and her approach is appreciated even by those who hold on to their old ways.  She is the one others go to with cultural questions and is fluent in the local language.

Tom joined the team 5 years ago.  His out-of-the-box thinking has created new ways to develop in-depth relationships.  Additionally, he has been able to help local people create new micro-enterprise businesses and improve the economy and health of the community.  His language is adequate, but his acceptance comes from the creative help he has offered to others.

Though you may have your own opinion about which of the leaders should be offered the post, put those thoughts on hold for the time being.  Instead, consider how you would help each candidate become an effective team leader during the first year.  What would be similar elements for each regardless of their gifting and experience?  What do you see as unique elements for each one’s transition to this team leader role?  How would you structure the onboarding process for each one using group and individualized activities?

Bill, Sue and Tom each could become an effective team leader with the right onboarding process that meets each one’s growth needs and unique transition while accentuating the strengths.

Now consider the new field leader openings in your organization.  Who are the candidates for each of those positions? Write a brief outline for each position’s onboarding process using your organization’s available resources.  Individualize the process and you will gain a greater understanding of how both group and individual activities can be combined in to an effective onboarding experience.

Take a moment to share your comments, insights and experience with others.   Thanks.

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