Heidi Davidson is the Co-Founder of Galvanize Worldwide, the world’s largest distributed network of marketing and communications experts.
The first 100 days are tracked closely following the inauguration of a new president of the U.S., and much can be learned by taking a similar approach as you enter a new leadership role in a company. Those first 100 days will set the tone for the remainder of your tenure, and they require a delicate balance of confidence and action with listening and learning.
Below are some steps to consider as you think about your own first 100 days in a new role:
Set a plan.
Like any transition, some advanced planning is required. Read as much as you can to understand the public perception of the company and the existing leadership team. Review all plans, key performance indicators, leadership team performance reviews and anything else you can get your hands on. This will give you a quick sense of current goals and how the company is performing against them.
For example, in one of my previous roles, a CEO transition was completed, and we on the leadership team knew we needed to signal a serious change in approach and culture to the rest of the company. We started by listing every constituent of the company on the left side of a piece of paper, current perceptions from that audience in the middle, and our dream perception on the right side. Then, we set about making those a reality. If the company had a poor relationship with the media, for instance, we would work to build a better, more engaged and transparent one by reaching out immediately upon announcing the change and having better access and lengthier media interviews.
Beginning to lay out this plan even before you start the new role takes advantage of your fresh eyes on the organization and helps set you up for fast execution and quick wins. Another idea here is to start with the end in mind. If someone were going to do a 100-day report card on your performance, what would you want it to show? Then work backward to formulate that plan.
Assess how employees are really feeling.
In a parallel effort to your planning, it’ll be important to embark on a listening tour. One-on-one meetings with your leadership team are critical, but also identify who the last administration might have thought were the high performers or those identified in the succession planning as the next round of leaders.
Consider skip-level meetings, and get your ear to the ground of those actually executing vs. managing so you can understand what is really being said and how people are really feeling. During this process, listen and engage, but don’t act. Work to share the same messages with each person so you’re consistent. Start to identify allies at all levels, as this will be critical to checking in and having an ear to the ground. It’ll also help give people an impression of you and the level of access and accountability they can expect from you.
Find quick wins.
While it’s critical that you listen and learn, bringing the existing team along with you as you set about changing the organization, it is critical that you’re setting the tone of action. Identify a handful of quick wins that can happen fast at the beginning of your tenure to signal who you are, how you operate and what will be important to you as you move forward.
Some of these might seem pretty straightforward, and that’s OK. Some might be true actions, while others might be ways to right the wrongs of a previous leadership team. The key is to move things forward with limited delay.
Cross the aisle.
Just as in the political arena, it’s important to study what your biggest adversaries are saying about you, too. Read the news to understand what competitors and analysts might have to say about you. Talk to your human resources and leadership teams, and ask them what they’re hearing in regards to issues such as why people are leaving, why people are frustrated, where there are weaknesses, etc.
Then, reach across that aisle and engage in conversation with those critics to understand if what they’re saying is valid or if their toxic energy needs to be purged from your organization.
Now that you’ve gone deeper into the organization, you will likely have a clearer picture of what’s working and what is not. Identify a minimum of five priorities tied to action plans, deadlines and accountability. Communicate it widely to the organization, and be very transparent about delivery or lack thereof. Identify a cross-functional group of individuals to assist, and give credit where credit is due — publicly and often.
Build the rallying cry.
As you’re moving into action mode and settling in during your first 100 days, consider crafting a rallying cry — whether it’s a mission statement published at your building’s entrance, an open letter from you or a motto like President Biden’s “Build Back Better.” Whatever it is, ensure it will help people clearly see what you intend to execute, and remind them of it regularly. I believe if you pause to bring people on board, your likelihood of success will dramatically increase.
Ultimately, you’ve got to find the right balance of listening and learning vs. action. You must instill confidence in your ability to lay out the plan as much as your ability to lead. You must also signal that you have substance and speed. Continue assessing your constituents throughout your tenure to see if they’re understanding and adapting to your philosophy, and show them that you’re planning to move the company in the right direction.
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Heidi Davidson is the Co-Founder of Galvanize Worldwide, the world’s largest distributed network of marketing and communications experts.…