How to Onboard Fractional Executives with Bethany Crystal
Intro: Welcome to the Daily Bolster. Each day we welcome transformational executives to share their real world experiences and practical advice about scaling yourself, your team, and your business.
Matt Blumberg: Welcome to The Daily Bolster. I'm Matt Blumberg, co- founder and CEO of Bolster, and I'm here today with my friend Bethany Crystal. Bethany is a fractional executive. She does work on Web3. She does work on New York City workforce development. She is one of the very few Bolster alums out there. She was on our team very early on for a couple of years. Bethany, it's great to have you here.
Bethany Crystal: Thanks for having me.
Matt Blumberg: All right, so you are a fractional executive.
Bethany Crystal: Inspired by Bolster.
Matt Blumberg: Inspired by Bolster. Thank you. And my question for you is, what are a few things that CEOs should know about onboarding fractional executives?
Bethany Crystal: Great question. I've worked in probably half a dozen fractional executive worlds now, and there's three areas that I think CEOs could do really effectively. One is preparing before the person starts. The second is around setting the scope and expectations. And the third is around establishing really effective communications loops while that person's doing the work. So things before arrival, I think just getting documents in place, briefing the team on what's happening, and working with your op person to get payments and invoicing set up right off the bat. Makes you come in really fresh, builds up a lot of trust. I've also wasted time in the first couple of weeks of new fractional gigs, kind of selling myself to the team or restating expectations if that wasn't made clear early on. I think that really helped. The second is around setting the scope and expectations with everyone, so be very clear about what that is and also clear about what your availability is. I think fractional executive work still needs a lot of normalization and I noticed that people assume I'm working certain hours a day or certain days a week or certain hours a week. And I think just getting that kind of aligned and using your work with the executive team to make sure everyone's on the same page is also really helpful. And then the third is around ongoing communication loops. I'm a big fan of having a weekly call with all the key stakeholders. I think the CEO and executive team can help set that up with updates, blockers, anything you need to talk about. Keeping a folder of all the internal items that are happening just for transparency purposes. And then also just talking about what you should be saying about that role internally and externally. Some companies like to keep fractional work inside the company, some people like to talk about it. So I think coming in, setting up all of those things can help the fractional exec really hit the ground running.
Matt Blumberg: Yeah, so it's interesting on that last point, so everything you said, you could also sort of say, oh yeah, well that's true of full- time as well, but you had a twist with each one that's fractional. One of the questions that a lot of people have about fractional execs is, going back to your third point, if there's a certain amount of fixed overhead in being part of a team, like you have to have weekly check- ins with a whole bunch of people. How does that work efficiently enough as a fractional exec? So is it in fact it's, hey, it takes eight hours a week to do stakeholder communication, so if you're working 60 hours a week, that's X percent, but if you're working 20 hours a week, it's three X percent. Is that how it works? Or do you think fractional executives can get into a more efficient way of-
Bethany Crystal: I say you can get more efficient. I keep my weekly update meetings to 30 minutes, and if I have other recurring meetings, since I work on a project basis and assume I will be redundant and gone at some point, my goal is to teach someone else how to run that meeting after a couple of months and then they can pick up where I left off.
Matt Blumberg: Got it. So you try to keep the overhead down, basically.
Bethany Crystal: Yeah, that's essential. Otherwise, you're just in meetings all day,
Matt Blumberg: All day. And then last question, I think you've done work that is both in person and remote. Is there a meaningful difference in your eyes from being a fractional exec in person versus remote? Is it easier if it's in person, because you can run in for the three hours you're there and see a whole bunch of people, or doesn't it really matter?
Bethany Crystal: I think that if you are trying to do deep onboardings or deep dives, doing that in person and meeting a whole bunch of the team at once is really effective. But I was actually in a situation last week where I was asked to do theme one- on- ones with everyone, which is a really common part of becoming a new fractional exec. And I actually prefer to do those remotely. I can type a lot faster than I can talk, I can still be paying active attention and it's a little bit easier to be referencing notes and sharing docs there. So I think it kind of is a hybrid.
Matt Blumberg: All right, Bethany Crystal on onboarding fractional executives. Thanks for joining.
Bethany Crystal: Thanks.
The onboarding process sets the tone for the working relationship, especially with fractional executives. Today on the podcast, Bethany Crystal shares how CEOs can prepare for a new leader to start, set the scope and expectations, and establish effective communication. Tune in to maximize the success of your onboarding practices!