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Your Checklist for Onboarding a New Leader in Local Government

Your Checklist for Onboarding a New Leader in Local Government

03 June 2024


​Effective onboarding is crucial for the success of a new leader, particularly within local government, where the nuances of public administration demand a seamless transition. At Leading Roles, we have guided councils through impeccable recruitment processes, matching skills using capability frameworks, and maintaining thorough communication with candidates. However, the real test begins when the new leader steps into their role. To ensure a smooth transition and sustained success, here is a comprehensive checklist for onboarding a new leader in local government.

1. Pre-Onboarding Preparation

Before the new leader starts, prepare the groundwork to ensure they feel welcomed and well-informed:

  • Role Clarity: Clearly define the new leader’s responsibilities, expectations, and key performance indicators. This includes understanding the council’s strategic objectives and how the leader’s role aligns with them.

  • Access to Information: Provide access to crucial documents, including strategic plans, budget reports, and key project summaries. Ensure they have a good grasp of ongoing initiatives and any pressing issues.

2. Orientation and Introduction

The first few days are vital for setting the tone and building relationships:

  • Welcome Package: Create a comprehensive welcome package that includes an organisational chart, contact list, and essential information about the council’s operations and culture.

  • Meet and Greet: Arrange introductory meetings with key stakeholders, including council members, department heads, and community leaders. This helps the new leader understand the dynamics and establish important connections early on.

3. Role-Specific Training

Tailored training programs are essential for the new leader to hit the ground running:

  • Policy and Procedure Briefings: Ensure the new leader is familiar with local government policies, procedures, and regulatory requirements. This includes a deep dive into governance structures and decision-making processes.

  • Systems and Tools Training: Provide training on the specific systems and tools used within the council. This includes financial management systems, project management software, and any other relevant platforms.

4. Strategic Alignment

Align the new leader’s vision with the council’s strategic goals:

  • Strategic Planning Sessions: Involve the new leader in strategic planning sessions to help them understand and contribute to the council’s long-term vision. Encourage them to bring fresh perspectives while aligning with existing priorities.

  • Performance Goals: Set short-term and long-term performance goals in collaboration with the new leader. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), clearly articulating requirements for the initial probationary period, and goals for the year ahead.

5. Continuous Support and Feedback

Ongoing support and feedback are crucial for continuous improvement and adaptation:

  • Regular Check-Ins: Schedule regular check-ins with the new leader to discuss progress, challenges, and provide feedback. This helps in identifying any areas where additional support might be needed.

  • Mentorship and Coaching: Consider assigning a mentor or coach to the new leader. This can be particularly valuable in navigating the complexities of local government and building a support network.

6. Community Engagement

Encourage the new leader to actively engage with the community:

  • Public Introductions: Arrange for public introductions at community events or council meetings. This helps the community get to know their new leader and builds public trust.

  • Stakeholder Engagement: Facilitate opportunities for the new leader to meet with key community stakeholders, including local businesses, nonprofit organisations, and civic groups.

7. Evaluation and Adjustment

Regular evaluation and adjustments ensure the onboarding process remains effective:

  • Feedback Mechanisms: Implement feedback mechanisms to gather input from the new leader and other stakeholders about the onboarding process. Use this feedback to make necessary adjustments.

  • Performance Review: Conduct a formal performance review after the first six months to evaluate progress and identify areas for improvement.

Onboarding a new leader in local government requires meticulous planning and execution. By following this comprehensive checklist, councils can ensure that their new leaders are well-prepared, supported, and aligned with the council’s strategic goals from day one. At Leading Roles, we are committed to helping councils not only find the right leaders but also set them up for long-term success.