Best Hire Ever: John Whitaker on Imposter Syndrome & Onboarding Executives

In Episode 10 of Best Hire Ever, Kris Dunn chats with EVP and CHRO John Whitaker about executive onboarding — where it works, where it goes wrong, and what new leaders need to think about as they enter a new organization. Along the way, they discuss imposter syndrome and provide their hot takes on the best way out of the funk. John also shares his experiences onboarding into companies as a new leader and tells KD what he’s learned.

If you want to hear more from John, go subscribe at, read Whit’s back catalog on FOT, and look for the HRHardball podcast debuting October 1.

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Show Highlights:

2:10 – John and KD start by talking about Texas A&M (John) and Auburn (KD) football, the pandemic, et al. John shares that his road trip to Auburn was better than the one he took to Tuscaloosa (Alabama).

4:20 – John talks about his recent move from Sage to National Partners in Healthcare as an HR Leader, how the pandemic encouraged the move.

6:05 – KD and John talk about not knowing the language in a new industry, and John shares the fact he had his own slang he was throwing around to new teammates.

8:25 – Topic is being an incoming new leader at an organization — what do coming leaders generally mess up related to this?  John and KD talk about where they feel like they’ve failed before? Announcing presence with authority is discussed.

13:00 – What the heck is imposter syndrome when it comes to new leaders? We talk about how it impacts women, men, etc.

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19:50 – John and KD talk about what type of new leader doesn’t feel imposter syndrome.

24:00 – KD and John discuss imposter syndrome at lower levels in the organization, good movement in companies on asking individuals to lean in, and learned roles in gender and beyond.

26:55 – What are the coping mechanisms for imposter syndrome? John tells the story of challenges he’s faced from direct reports early in new roles, etc. John and KD discuss the agendas of people who come to you first, share their opinions about others, etc.

30:00 – John and KD discuss two profile new leaders meet in new roles — the “The Quiet One” and the “Apple Polisher.”

38:00 – John and KD discuss whether onboarding for a new leader is necessary, or whether it’s better for a new leader to figure it out on their own. “That’s what the money is for” is discussed.

BEST HIRE EVER is a podcast that explores a simple truth: There’s nothing that drives success at your company like making a great hire. Make your BEST HIRE EVER, and suddenly you sleep better, work less nights and weekends, and you might even start being talked about as that guy or gal that’s just naturally a great developer of talent.

Of course, making great hires is incredibly hard, which is why this podcast exists. Join Kinetix CHRO and partner Kris Dunn (founder of Fistful of Talent, The HR Capitalist, and author of The 9 Faces of HR) as he digs into the topic of hiring top talent with undeniably talented corporate leaders, recruiters, and candidates. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll learn the hard lessons others learned as they developed their approach to make their BEST HIRE EVER.