Setting out your first 100 days
In this extract from Your First 100 Days, Niamh O’Keeffe explains how to approach those first crucial days.
You can make a fanfare of your first 100 days action plan as soon as you arrive, but my advice is not to do that. Instead, it’s best to arrive and ground yourself in the role for 5 to 10 days to check what the experience is like on arrival, and to confirm and make any final tweaks to the plan.
For example, you may not yet have met all the stakeholders, so your plan may not have included all stakeholder expectations. On arrival, I recommend the following steps:
- Check/reconfirm priorities with your boss and key stakeholders, and their expectations of you
- Meet your direct report team, and get up to speed on their issues
- Physically go into the building and organisation to get your own sense of the place
- Finalise your First 100 days plan.
Whether or not to communicate your plan to all role stakeholders is up to you. I recommend that you share it fully with your boss but, after that, you may choose tactically how much of the plan to share, and who with, depending on what is appropriate to your context.
How you communicate your plan is another matter. While it was useful for you to construct your plan on paper, in terms of communication to others you may wish to avail yourself of the full suite of communication architecture available: for example, in person, roadshows, town halls, podcast, blogs, email or position paper.
Show up as a leader
By now, you should feel very well prepared, your first 100 days plan is thorough and complete, and it is a great looking document to discuss with your boss on arrival on day one.
But, of course, on arrival on the first day in the role, your challenge is only just beginning. You now need to bring your plan to life, and execute it successfully.
The word ‘leader’ is an over-used and misunderstood term. In my experience, most business executives in major global corporations are professional managers, not leaders. You may believe you are a leader, you may have been told for years at your company that you are a leader, but I have rarely met anybody who is a real leader. Just because you are in a position of authority does not make you a leader.
What I mean is that executives are relying on the power and authority of their role to get things done and, like managers, they usually take up their role as someone involved in organising and marshalling resources in servicing a task passed to them by another. That’s a manager, a follower, not a leader.
Thousands of books have been written on the subject of leadership. It gets overly complicated to the extent that it feels like an impossible mission to lead anybody from point A to point B. I like to keep it simple.
A leader should:
• Set a clear direction
• Bring people with you (boss, team, stakeholders, customers)
• Deliver results by the end of the first 100 days.
In an attempt to keep it simple, I list these as the three key tasks of any leader, but please note that these are not separate tasks. These three tasks are inextricably linked and iterative and one cannot exist in isolation of the other.
Set a clear direction
No one knows the right answer about the future. But a leader will have the courage to put stakes in the ground early on and say: “I don’t have all the answers either, but let’s go there”.
‘There’ could be a new market, new products and services, or a total relaunch, or all of the aforementioned. It doesn’t matter what ‘there’ is – the leader has the guts to go for it.
The more clarity on the end point, and the plan to get to the end point, then of course the easier the journey will be for everyone to get there.
Bring people with you
Of course, if only the leader goes ‘there’, nothing much happens in terms of progress. Never underestimate how much you have to keep communicating your direction in the first 100 days, and the reasons for your direction, to others. Even when you don’t know all the answers, keep communicating. And, of course, this is not one person trying to move a mountain, people will spontaneously follow you when they understand more about your direction and believe in you.
Reaching ‘there’ and attempts to get ‘there’ will have been a good idea and a good plan only if results prove it. Otherwise, we all realise the leader made a big mistake on direction and we were foolish to follow.
The delivery of the right results demonstrates the quality of the leader in terms of ability to set a clear direction and bring the people with him/her.