CABLES: Teaching Leadership Skills During Onboarding

MRINetwork’s 2015 “Recruiter Sentiment Study” found that employees are 10 times more likely to leave a company in their first year than in their fifth year. The reason employees leave within the first year are often a lack of connection to the culture of the organization or a mismatch between what they expected to be doing and what they were actually doing. There is a simple and often overlooked solution to early turnover and the high costs incurred in replacing lost employees: introducing leadership training during the onboarding process.

It is often said that leadership does not reside in a title, but if this observation has become so widely accepted, why do most organizations wait until individuals have acquired a title before they begin to develop them as leaders? Someone (attributed variably to people from John Quincy Adams to Dolly Parton) once said, “If your actions inspire someone to do more, to dream more, to learn more, or to become more, you are a leader.” If organizations were to adopt this definition of leadership, it would make sense to develop an onboarding system that identified and developed leadership behaviors.

This activity is not to be confused with presenting the company’s mission, vision or value statements to employees. It is more foundational and actually provides the opportunity for employees to fully embrace that mission, vision and values.

To make it easier for new hires to identify and develop a set of effective leadership behaviors, start with the acronym CABLES: congruence, appreciation, being for others, listening, empathy and specifics. Tell new hires that each one of these behaviors is intended to help them develop a stronger relationship bridge with each of their new counterparts, one cable at a time.


The first lesson is the impact of congruence and consistency on developing trust and engagement. Have the new employees discuss the importance of ensuring that their words and actions remain in alignment. Introducing this behavior will demonstrate your organization’s commitment to its stated mission, vision and values are and encourage new hires to make sure individuals at all levels of the organization are aligned with them.


Next, stress the importance of appreciating diversity and other’s contributions. First, expose employees to the negative impact unconscious biases have on relationships and the performance of fellow employees. Present new hires with situations that demonstrate that the way we perceive someone is not often accurate and can negatively impact that person’s performance and our relationship with him or her.

The second part of appreciation involves helping new hires recognize the impact that recognition of performance has on future performance. Just because “that’s what someone is paid to do” doesn’t mean that there is not a need to recognize that person’s effort.

Be for Others

When you expose new hires to the impact their contribution has on the relationships of the people they work with and on the health of the organization, you enhance their motivation and engagement. One strategy that’s reportedly popular with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuck is the 51/49 rule, which encourages people to approach any interaction with the intention of providing 51% of the value of that interaction. When you have this goal, you always give a little more than you receive.


The fourth lesson to teach new hires is listening and its impact on healthy relationships and team engagement. Identifying effective ways to listen and be aware of others’ verbal and non-verbal signals helps build trusting relationships. Lack of genuine listening makes for an unstable relationship bridge.


Help new hires identify and understand the impact that empathy has on individual and team effectiveness. Demonstrating that you are sincerely attempting to see things from another person’s perspective is the apex of a strong relationship bridge. We can span great distances when we use empathy in building a stronger connection.


Helping new hires understand the importance of setting clear expectations is important if your organization is trying to improve communication. When employees can identify and develop procedures for establishing clear expectations, for themselves and others, they can communicate on a higher level.

Your new hires are the engineers, architects and builders of relationships. When you provide them with the opportunity to identify and develop leadership behaviors, like CABLES, the entire organization benefits. Employees who are introduced to leadership behaviors in the beginning of their tenure are better equipped to navigate the different personalities and communications that they will face down the road.

What kind of bridge has your organization built to bring people on board?

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