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The Journal Gazette

  • Bermes

Sunday, March 11, 2018 1:00 am

For new bosses, fitting in crucial and tough

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

The odds are 50-50 that a new executive will fail within their first 18 months.

And with many baby boomers heading into retirement, many of those who were seasoned managers are likely to be replaced by individuals from the Generation X and millennial crowd, says Emily Bermes, CEO of a local consulting firm that bears her name.

Many younger workers have potential and specific skills, so the bright side is they may get opportunities earlier in their careers. The downside is they have fewer “cycles of learning,” so they're being “pulled up into the executive suite in a less-prepared fashion,” Bermes said.

Assimilation is key to avoiding high management failure rates. Organizations need structured transitional programs – which could include executive coaching – to better ensure top managers' success.

The cost of failure is high, Bermes said. When an executive doesn't make it, it costs the employer twice their annual salary in recruiting fees, loss of productivity, morale issues, turnover and stalled business results.

“If you've got an executive making $250,000, if they fail in that 18 months, it's a half-a-million-dollar hit to the firm,” said Bermes, whose firm of seven focuses on management consulting and leadership development for executives.

Bermes developed a case study on assimilation, based on data from 250 senior executive interviews conducted in a Fortune 500 financial services firm in Illinois. The information helped shed light on which assimilation strategies work well and which ones can lead to failure. She called it an “incredible learning opportunity” to gain insight on missteps that could “quite literally derail an otherwise promising career.”

Bermes also said she worked for six to 12 months with more than 20 executives through their role assimilation at the Fortune 500 company, and all were successful.

One primary factor in failures is managers who don't understand a company culture well enough to fit in, Bermes said. For example, a leader who is used to more aggressive workplace practices could be rejected in a culture where the “hotshot” style is an anomaly.

The risk of failure is also great when leaders don't accurately assess the “state of the team” they inherited. If a team generally feels demoralized, a leader's approach should be different than if they've inherited a team that's used to continuous success.

“If you make a big mistake in those early days, it could just be too hard to recover from it,” Bermes said.

Summit speakers

The Global Leadership Summit, broadcast annually in August by the Willow Creek Association from suburban Chicago, has unveiled its list of speakers for the annual two-day training.

Along with Bill Hybels, pastor, author and founder of the summit, speakers will include Denzel Washington, actor, director, producer; Angela Ahrendts, senior vice president of retail, Apple; Lisa Bodell, an author and founder and CEO of futurethink; David Livermore, an author and president, Cultural Intelligence Center; and Craig Groeschel, co-founder and senior pastor of Life Church.

Fort Wayne recently has become the largest-attended host site, via satellite, for the conference that trains thousands each year. This year's dates are Aug. 9-10. For more information online, go to

Rethink meetings

I haven't been keeping up with my Twitter feed much lately, but one alert last week particularly caught my attention.

“Don't hold meetings to share information. Hold meetings to share thinking.” That was courtesy of Jesse Lyn Stoner, a former business executive who is now a consultant and an author.

Many people dread meetings. Lots of talk, but sometimes little action follows. The emphasis on input from people invited to the table could change the energy level. But once the team offers bright ideas, if there aren't strategies to implement – or constructive feedback on why they're not possible – the time is wasted.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at