How to successfully make it through the first 100 days in a new role

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For anyone taking on a new role, the first hundred days are seen as a rite of passage. In terms of how the organisation perceives you, this period is also a significant milestone.

For the senior manager or executive concerned it is a time for making careful assessments about the task ahead, and winning the trust and confidence of those around them before implementing any changes.

In a senior role you are ultimately measured by your ability to resolve issues, set strategy, grow the business and achieve objectives. One hundred days gives you time to barely scratch the surface, but this crucial period will help to establish a base for the longer term when you will be scrutinised and judged by what you can really deliver.

How do you prepare for this critical early phase of a new career? What can you do to make the transition from your previous role as smooth and seamless as possible?

The key thing to remember is that your new job, whether it is an internal promotion or an external appointment, is not just an extension of the one you have just left. It will be something very different.

There are specific challenges and pressures that apply to a senior management or board level role, and you will be expected to get it all right; the systems, the business strategy, the team building, and the people development.

You cannot hope to successfully meet these new challenges without understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, it is essential to know how and where you can get support for some of your weaker areas, possibly through executive or leadership coaching or mentoring.

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In the very early stages it is crucial to size up the organisation and its people. Failing to understand the business and failing to develop the right relationships can undermine the position of any new executive.

Unless there are urgent issues to deal with, it helps to take some time to acquire the information you need, to gain a real sense of the organisational culture, identify what is important and to differentiate between the signals and the noise.

Good communication is vital. Every conversation that you have will be of value in providing insight into the company and its culture. You should be able to define the prevalent management style; and identify the individuals who you need to build relationships with. Additionally, to ascertain what the organisation expects of you.

Early on, a new senior manager should be making his or her presence felt but in a subtle way, by engaging with the organisation, being visible, and communicating and enquiring among those you have identified as key stakeholders.

New leaders will benefit from proactive support in deciding how they form effective relationships at this level and what behavioural changes they may need to make to ensure that they are effective in their new role.

The people around you, or in the case of a CEO, the people you surround yourself with, will play a key role in determining the success of your first few months with the company.

A new CEO has to understand the dynamics of the board members, spend time observing them and seeing how they work individually and together. Only then should top team coaching be arranged or additions made to the team.

During the first hundred days it is important to meet regularly with those who report directly to you, as well as their own direct reports. This will help you understand what each person does, what their skills are, and where they are coming from more generally. Keep the meeting groups small in order to build rapport and trust with those who will be working closest to you.

Often, the expectations of a new CEO are that he or she will make an early announcement of a change of strategy, but a new leader should resist the urge to act immediately, and instead spend time listening to colleagues and customers to gain insights about the business. Only announce any strategic changes after intense reflection and analysis, ¬and also ensure that your team are fully supportive.

Getting the right balance between analysis and action is crucial. Some senior executives make change for the sake of being seen to be doing something and make decisions without thinking things through properly. Unless the situation calls for urgent action, use your first few weeks to listen and observe. Having said that, there is nothing like an early ”win” to establish credibility and to buy you the time to build trust in the longer term. Try to discover if there is a small issue that you can fix immediately and thus show that you are emotionally and intellectually on board as well as physically. This is particularly important for the HR executive who will always need to prove his or her value to the business to a greater degree than leaders of some other functions.

Be aware of the signals you send out during this early phase as these can help to establish your credibility. The first hundred days will set the tone for the rest of your tenure in the organisation, so be clear about the values you aspire to and ensure that these are in line with the values of the business. Above all your aim will be to win the trust and confidence of your colleagues and the CEO as early as possible.

If there are problems or issues that cannot wait, be inclusive. Identify the key issues and feed them back to your immediate team to make sure they agree and feel part of the solution.

Finally, the first one hundred days in the job are always a challenge, so allow yourself time to step back and look at what you have achieved before moving on. Also, take time out to reflect on any unexpected issues that have arisen, so that this learning can be incorporated into your personal success plan for the role.

By Chris Seabourne of global search firm – CTPartners

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