You just joined a new company in a senior management capacity. What to do? You want to make a mark. You want to show who is the boss. You want to show the team you are the right choice. You want to be seen as a decisive and fair leader. You want to show that you are bringing value. You want to justify to the other managers at the company that you being hired rather than them being promoted was the right thing. And you want to show to your boss that he made the right call hiring you.
So how do you do all of that? Have a plan! As the 6P rule goes (Perfect Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance), do your homework and have a clear plan on what you want to achieve over the first hundred days. Share this plan with your new boss and even with the team and follow through.
Day 0 (Before you even start)
The higher the position the more preparation is needed since you are expected to hit the ground running. You don’t want to show up on the first day and have no clue what the company culture looks like, what the major challenges are, what the expectations from you are, what the industry looks like, who the customers and main competitors are, and what questions you should ask. You don’t want to be seen as ignorant the very first day on the job. First impressions die hard. You don’t need to know every single detail, it would be too difficult for an outsider to discover anyway, but you need to understand the major themes. Before you even start you should:
- Meet with your future boss to understand your mission, why you are being brought on board
- You need to research the competitive landscape and understand the business at the level any outsider can
- You need to know how the company is doing, what its mission is what it claims to stand for (you will have opportunity to verify these when you start)
- If possible you should also ask around and research what the customers and former employees say about the company
- And you need to prepare a couple of ready to deliver speeches about who you are, why you are here, what you believe in, and why people should listen to you since you need to be setting some expectations from day one
Day 1 – 40 (Listen & Understand)
The very first day is the day when your listening journey starts. The first weeks on the job needs to be for you to understand the company and the people you will work with. You already have some understanding from your previous research but now you can dig into details. So what are the key things to do in the first forty days?
- Meet with your management team and every single team member (if the team is small enough) or at least with key employees (if you are heading a large organization), listen and understand various aspects of the company, its mission, culture, values, and who is on board
- Meet with representatives from other departments to understand what their roles are, how your team fits the picture, and to start building relationships
- Meet with key partners, vendors, 3rd parties and understand the relationships
- Spend time with a person who formerly held the job, or someone who is at similar level in the company to understand the history and expected future
- Clearly define the role with your boss and understand what are the boundaries and communication channels between various groups
- Sit with your boss and agree on performance goals for the first year (or whatever timeframe makes sense for the company’s business model)
- Build relationships with all key stakeholders (employees, management, partners, customers)
- Identify strengths and weaknesses of the organization that will help you formulate your next actions
Day 41 – 100 (Strategize & Set expectations)
You have a long list of meetings behind you. You have heard the points of view of all the key stakeholders. You have an understanding of how the company operates, what are the core values, and hopefully, have a good grasp on how things are being done. Now is the time to set up a plan:
- Review the current performance plans and formulate strategy going forward
- Identify the biggest opportunities both in the market as well as for internal improvement
- Develop a SWOT analysis (or whatever framework you decide to use to clearly state your views of the company or department) and compare with current thinking of the management team
- Decide what are we going to bet on and what are we going to cut (this is always the most difficult decision since most likely you wouldn’t be able to do everything and you need to keep yourself and the team focused on what matters the most)
- Agree on values and culture we are trying to create and point out what values you believe the company lives based on the interviews you had with the employees (more on this in You Can’t Lead Without Values And Principles)
- Start working on plugging holes in the team (if any) to support the strategy
- Set the tone (leadership style) and clearly articulate the expectations you have from the team
- Establish credibility and acceptance by the organization by leading by example and generally behaving in a trustworthy manner (more on this in Trust And Credibility Beats Vision And Strategy)
Day 100+ (Execute)
Your hundred days passed. Now you should be in full execution mode. But before you get to the day to day nitty gritty work you probably want to close the onboarding loop with couple more action items:
- Review the 100 days with your boss
- Review organizational structure, make changes as needed and put together developmental plans for the team aligned with strategy
- Create sense of urgency (I know it is not a popular term, so call it whatever you wish but just make sure that everyone in the organization is focused on helping the company achieve its goals) and execute on the strategy agreed
I know that the list is hardly comprehensive and is prone to change due to specific circumstances related to the role in question and the company. I have originally put the list together when asked how the first hundred days as a CEO should look like. When I look at it now, I feel it is relevant enough for most of the management roles. What will differ is the depth and details into which you will want to dive. The key takeaway is that “listen and understand” is more important than “having a quick impact” unless you are being brought in for a turnaround situation.
What is your approach to getting oriented in a new role? What are the priorities for the first 100 days and how does it differ with seniority? Do you believe it is more important to “have a quick impact” or to “listen and understand”?
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