Onboarding-Weigh the Anchors for EVERYONE

February 28, 2015 Affective LeadershipAssociation InsightsEmotional Intelligence


2015 has been a year of new beginnings a chance to leave behind missteps of the past and start fresh.  As we have come to know our new clients we realize that the greatest challenge, at least initially, would not be what lies ahead, but what is dragged behind. 

If you are in the position of replacing a departing team member your new addition will not only have to be equipped to do their job but they will also carry the weight of preconceptions left over from the person they are replacing.  This is not, as most of our thoughts are not, a conscious choice on the behalf of the new employee’s supervisor or even co-workers.  Our System One thinking, as Daniel Kahneman describes it, is always operating (as in never, ever stops) and is designed to simplify our decision-making process.  This reductionist process not only enhances the ease of decision-making but it may also increase the errors.

Since the process cannot be “turned off” the best way to counteract our tendency toward transference is to be aware that the process is happening and happens to everyone all the time.

tied upStarting someone new should not be viewed just as a responsibility to teach that person “the ropes” but to use a new perspective to rediscover the ropes that bind everyone.   This should be a conversation that we systematically have with every member of the team, every time.   Starting fresh with a clean slate is a chance for everyone to be the best version of themselves.

i.e.  We have one client that for many years had issues with one of their “collaborators”.   Stories of past injustices have been passed on from generation to generation of boards, staff and members.  We were well-intentionally-warned who to be wary of and what to expect and made the mistake of following that direction for far too long.  Then we decided not to expect.  We made a conscious decision not to know the history or join in the hysterics.  Any time a conversation would veer off course toward a de-energizing discourse we would STOP the discussion and make it clear were not interested in projecting the past but in creating new possibilities for the future.

We should learn from our past but not carry our past. 

Carrying past successes may delude us into believing they have current relevance and reliving past mistakes only steal the possibilities in the present.

Starting anyone or anything new should be an opportunity to give everyone, board, staff, members, partners, customers and our entire community a fresh start to leave behind old grudges and ineffective habits to become something no-one ever imagined before.

If you are looking for a resource to help your team take a fresh look I would recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s newest book,

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. 

I had great respect for Mr. Gladwell’s intellect but I am now even more in awe of his audacity.  In the first chapter he boldly takes on the sacred story of David and Goliath to demonstrate that many of the things we hold dearly are misconceptions of perception.  Whether you agree with his conclusions or not you have to admire his commitment not to confuse consensus for correctness.


  1. Be aware-not of what you are thinking but how you are thinking.  Are your thoughts help-full or hurt-full.
  2. Stop telling sad stories disguised as historical reference.
  3. Forgive yourself and all others.
  4. Force yourself to forget.  Just because a story is rational does not mean it is factual


“If you would be a real seeker after truth, you must at least once in your life doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

– Rene Descartes, French mathematician (1596-1650)

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