Your first 100 days

Nov 21 2012 by Niamh O'Keeffe Print This Article

Congratulations you your new leadership role. How are you feeling? Excited? Nervous? Fearful? Stressed? Don't worry if you are confused as you approach your first 100 days in this new role – it is perfectly normal. However, great leaders understand the importance of getting off to a strong start and they don't let these emotions get the better of them. In fact great leaders will use the energy created by these emotions to help them accelerate their performance.

This is what you should do in your new leadership role if you want to really set the tone for your longer term tenure in the role and if you want to enhance the possibility of further advancement.

As you know, with speed and pace being critical success factors in leadership, the importance of making an impact in the first 100 days cannot be overstated. With the US Presidential election having just taken place there will be a lot of talk of the first 100 days, and as business leaders we need to pay attention to this critical area of leadership transitions.

In today's economy, shareholders and boards expect their newly appointed leaders to deliver performance from their leaders and their teams from day one. Cost-conscious investors want a fast return on their investment and they won't make concessions or wait around while you and your team play catch-up.

Your first 100 days will be considered an early 'pulse check' on your leadership performance, as well as offering the opportunity for you to exponentially multiply and maximise leadership efforts and insights via their team. This time is also used as an early indicator of your future career success.

Let's examine this subject in two parts: your leadership in the first 100 days and leading your team in the first 100 days.

Leadership in your first 100 days

Recent studies by First100, a leadership consultancy, have shown that upwards of 40% of new leadership appointments struggle to make an impact in the early period. The consequence of this is that many leaders end up leaving, getting fired or not meeting expectations within the first 12 months. The 100th day of your appointment has become the first judgment point of leadership effectiveness within organizations and its importance cannot be overstated.

As you take on the new role you will be faced with many challenges and it is important that you should be aware of them while knowing that they are not insurmountable.

  • Time pressures and intense learning curve
  • The sense of being overwhelmed with fire-fighting and task-driven issues and not being able to focus on your strategic priorities
  • Forging new stakeholder relationships and building new networks
  • Dealing with legacy issues from your predecessor
  • Challenges on inheriting a team that may not be to your liking
  • Avoiding early political or cultural gaffes
  • Getting the balance right between moving too quickly and moving too slowly

An understanding of what leadership is really all about will be essential to your early success. But with so much written on this subject, it is important to simplify leadership and pay attention in the early period to the three core areas of effective leadership.

  • Strategy – ability to set a clear direction
  • People – ability to bring people with you
  • Results – ability to focus on and deliver meaningful results quickly

Establishing quick effective relationships is one of the critical success factors for effective leadership in the early period. It is important that you can quickly identify who are the key stakeholders in the organisation. Many will make the mistake of assuming that all key stakeholders are on the organisation chart but that is not always the case.

Every organisation is made up of formal and informal networks, information holders (eg receptionists, PAs, drivers etc) and gate-keepers . So on taking on a new role it is important that you build an early relationship with these people. Interestingly many spend a lot of time focussing on the relationship with their boss, but in many ways this is already well established because having made the decision to hire you they have a vested interest in you succeeding. They are already a key supporter. Beyond establishing the logistics (number of meetings, information needed etc) with your boss you may be better employed focussing on the other key stakeholders around you.

Leading your team in the first 100 days

Building a high performing team is arguably your number one priority in this early period and there are numerous pressures facing you in that regard

1. Speed is the new business weapon

Speed as a competitive weapon has become an important part of maintaining corporate stability, fuelling growth and managing successful turnarounds. In today's economy, shareholders and boards expect their newly appointed leaders to perform even better, even faster. Leaders need to set a clear direction with their teams and manage time and resources effectively.

2. Leadership tenures have shortened

Leaders are expected to arrive, deliver maximum results and then leave for the next role more quickly than ever before. In global corporations, leaders are expected to be able to move on and re-create their efforts in another leadership role just as one has been fixed.

3. Responsibilities have expanded considerably

Cost pressures have led organisations to re-structure, resulting in role responsibilities expanding. Leaders need to be even better, able to deliver more with less and motivate teams to deliver more, better and faster than before.

4. Leadership has become complicated

The complexity of globally spread teams gives rise to complex relationships between leaders and their teams. The pressure has increased and the difficulty in comprehending team performance, let alone improving it, has increased exponentially.

5. Leadership 'change fatigue' has emerged

Few teams come close to achieving their goals before the leader is switched and new goals are established under a new leadership reign. Teams are exhausted from these constant leadership switches.

6. Team performance impacts a leader's reputation

Leaders must leverage their teams to impress others and build their confidence in themselves.

Writing a First 100 Days Plan is the mechanism for mitigating against the pressures and challenges facing leaders and their teams in this critical period.

As with all good plans you need to start with the end in mind, break your desired outcomes into 30/60/90 day milestones, assign co-owners to each section of the plan and sense check the plan before executing against it.

Leadership in your first 100 days is not easy. However making an accelerated start enhances your chances of success in the leadership role, enables more powerful team performance and sets you up for further promotion within the organisation.

Good luck in your new leadership role, make an accelerated start and be the best leader you can be.


About The Author

Niamh O'Keeffe
Niamh O'Keeffe

Niamh O'Keeffe is the founder of leadership consultancy First100. She has a track record of 20 years' career experience across leadership advisory services – including strategy consulting, executive search and leadership coaching.