Leadership in the First 100 Days — What it Takes to Ensure Your Success
The ability to successfully transition into a new leadership position is a must-have skill for executives. Your first 100 days in a leadership role are crucial if you want to make a positive and lasting impression, which will lay the foundation for your future success within the company. When illustrating the importance of maintaining strong leadership when transitioning into a new role, I use the example below.
Bob was aggressively recruited into a new company and started his new leadership position with great expectations. He had an outstanding track record at three other companies, including his newest stint as CFO at a venture backed high-tech company. Bob was instrumental in that company’s acquisition, but after less than three months on the job, he was fired. What happened to this rising star and what could he have done differently to succeed?
In this particular scenario, Bob became overly self-confident and didn’t follow the time-tested steps necessary to ensure a successful transition into a new role. For executives, “the currency of success is interpersonal intelligence.” Technical competence may get you in the door, but you’ll need a solid foundation of interpersonal skills to stay on top. Bob was technically outstanding, yet he forgot to pay enough attention to the interpersonal aspects of business.
Although this led to Bob’s downfall, there are many things you can do to get a strong start in your new leadership position. Let’s look at some steps you can take to ensure a successful transition into any new role.
Establish Objectives & Develop Metrics
Before accepting a new position or consulting assignment, work with your boss or sponsor to establish the outcomes you’re expected to help achieve. Understanding the company’s goals and what is expected of you before transitioning can help get you started on the right foot. Establishing your objectives early is essential — there’s no way you’ll be judged well down the line if you aren’t headed in the right direction from the start. With your objectives outlined, you should then be able to establish clear measures of success. Executives need to get agreement from their boss or sponsor on how they are going to be judged so they have a guideline on how to clearly demonstrate their value.
Determine Your Priorities
Most executives’ plates are overflowing, so it’s important to establish which objectives are most critical and begin tackling those priorities first. Pay extra attention to any objective that the higher-ups have deemed important, even if it isn’t the priority you would have normally given that task. Too often executives begin tackling items that they are most comfortable working on, rather than those that are most important to the organization or executive team.
Find and Meet Key Players
This is where interpersonal aspects of the position start to really stand out. Find out who can help and/or hinder initiatives you plan on undertaking, introduce yourself, and get to know them as a real person — not just another executive or consultant. Don’t wait for them to introduce or welcome you aboard. Reach out to them first and establish those interpersonal relationships early. It’s harder for people to be a roadblock when someone has taken the time to get to know them. Find out what motivates these key players so you can use that knowledge to influence and appeal to their rational self-interest.
Understand and Adapt to the Corporate Culture
Adapting is another crucial skill executives should have to ensure lasting success when transitioning into a new role. For example, family-owned businesses may have different growth objectives than publicly held companies. You need to adjust accordingly to the new growth objectives, otherwise you’ll be viewed as out of sync or a threat to the business. If you don’t adapt, you will be rejected from the organization and replaced with an executive who is able to adapt quickly to new situations and objectives.
Create Small Wins
Except in a turnaround situation, it’s important to create some early “small” wins that will show your team and other key players that you’re taking action. However, don’t make the mistake of trying to do something grandiose. Get some traction at the beginning of your transition and work your way through objectives by starting with smaller, more easily achieved goals.
Establish and Maintain Communication
Communication is vital for an executive transitioning into a leadership role. A lack of communication with your team and employees can lead to misunderstandings and rumors. This could be easily fixed through established, regular communication. Debriefings about how you are progressing will not only keep key players in the loop, it will help them feel more confident about your abilities.
Share Your Successes and Bestow Credit
Successful executives know how to sing their own praises, but with finesse. At the executive level, it’s virtually impossible to achieve anything without the help of others. Since most people have difficulty celebrating their own successes, doing it for them and giving a fair share of the credit will instill trust within the organization. Key players will be thankful that you have given them credit for their contributions and be motivated to help you complete more objectives without fuss. For example, you could recognize a team member by saying: “I want to thank Debbie and her team for the outstanding support they gave in helping us get x project done on time and on budget.”
Make Visible Course Corrections
No one is perfect. If you’re not making msitakes, you’re not taking risks. The Truthe is that many executives experience failure at one point or another. It’s important to understand that by acknowledging errors in judgment and making visible corrections, you are demonstrating self-confidence and security. If a course of action isn’t working out like you had hoped, be quick to accept responsibility and change course so you can get back on the path to success.
Continuing Your Success After 100 Days
If you want to ensure your success when transitioning into a new role, don’t go on autopilot and don’t wait for others to take the first step. Successful executives take charge of their destiny. They are proactive and don’t wait for others to tell them what they “should do.” Take 100% responsibility for making relationships work, and maintain communication at all times to make sure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives. If you follow these simple guidelines, you’re sure to be successful well past your first 100 days in leadership.