How to handle the first 100 days in a new role

The first 100 days in a new role are a great opportunity. Read on for some thoughts that will help, whether you are moving on yourself, or have just appointed a new direct report.

Tips for your first 100 days in a new role

I have picked 100 days as a commonly accepted figure in the business world for getting acquainted with your new organisation. You should decide for yourself what feels the right amount of time for your induction based on the context you are in – maybe you have less time, maybe more. Whatever you decide, make sure you communicate this so people know what to expect.

Create your 100-day plan

Start with the end in mind. Work out where you want to be in 100 days time, and what you need to learn to achieve that. What decisions do you want to make, what relationships do you want, and what do you want other people to be saying about you?

According to McKinsey:

A “critical task early on is to establish priorities. On day one you will be handed a list of commitments and meetings. Many of these will be non-negotiable, but some will be driven by history and the preferences of your predecessors. Take time to decide which ones you want to attend, bearing in mind the signalling effect your decisions will have”.

Then use this insight to build a plan that covers how you will spend your first 100 days, and set a timeline – for example where you want to be after 30 days, 60 days and finally 100 days. This helps ensure you build the understanding, information and relationships you’ll need to be successful.

If you are not given a remit as part of your induction, you will need to decide how to focus your time. It’s important to think broadly and look at the organisation from all angles. Don’t just take a single perspective, but look at the objectives, culture, structure, systems, processes, financials, and people. Understand the ‘as is’ as well as the ‘to be’. Work out how you will get clear on all components so you can draw out key insights that are not based on just one or two threads.

Unless you have walked straight into a crisis situation, people won’t expect you to start making big decisions immediately. The first 100 days are a good time to induct yourself and get familiar with your new role.

Building relationships

Identify the key stakeholders and influencers you’ll need to work with, and start collaborative relationships so you get off on the right footing with them.

If you are responsible for managing people, use the first 100 days to connect with them. Visit your direct reports and their people including those in different geographic sites. This will generate a lot of goodwill, as people will feel you care and respect them enough to visit.

Be curious and open-minded about what you ask and hear. Park your own thoughts and really listen. When people feel you are genuinely interested in what they say, they are more likely to share their views, warts and all. At this point, listening and absorbing is more effective than being action-orientated.

Take time to think. Rather than jumping straight in, it’s better to start slowly so you can go fast later. If you express your opinions too soon, it may be perceived as arrogant, and you may make decisions that you come to regret. If people want your opinion it may be best not to be too specific at this stage, but to talk more about your beliefs and what you stand for. And, of course, don’t reference your old organisation too much as this can really annoy people after a while!

The company and your organisation

Familiarise yourself with the vision and mission of the company, and the expectations that have been communicated to you – hopefully, you will have identified the objectives of the role during the interview and selection process.

Get to know your current team (see building relationships above) to understand what motivates them and to take a view on their capabilities. If you have doubts about your organisation, you will need time to think about how to deal with them – keep in mind that sometimes it is best to take tough decisions early on rather than let them drag on.

Your style

Find out what the culture is like, how decisions are made, and how things get done in this company/part of the organisation. So that you can have the impact you want, you may either mirror and adopt the prevailing style, or make a conscious decision to challenge it if your brief is to bring in a fresh approach.

Your behaviours in these early days will be watched closely. People will pay attention to your style, what you are interested in, how you conduct internal meetings, and how you listen, and this will start to have a subtle effect on how others behave even before your 100 days are up. Importantly, they will form judgements about you that will be difficult to change, so your style is probably one of the most important elements to get right.

Decide which of your typical behaviours and style you wish to leave behind as you start your new role and which to bring with you, to carve out the right reputation.  This is a great opportunity to start afresh and leave old habits behind that are not helpful or useful in your new role.

Keep your perspective

When you start a new role, particularly if you are leading an organisation, it’s easy to become a ‘slave’ to it, and feel that you have to put in a lot of hours and be constantly available to everyone. To a certain extent it is true that you have to invest extra time to get yourself up to speed and show that you are getting a grasp of your new world. However, don’t set yourself an unsustainable routine.

Decide your personal boundaries and communicate what your stakeholders can expect from you. Set rules for yourself at the start about when you are ‘off’ and when you are ‘on’. For example: what your working hours will look like taking account of your family, sport and other commitments; whether you are available for dinner with clients and colleagues; if you can be contacted by email during the evening or at weekends; what travel you will undertake; where you are prepared to be flexible and where not.

It’s tempting to have a schedule packed with meetings, but you should also book some time in your diary to sit back and think about what you are learning and absorbing. As well as getting out there to meet people, it’s just as important to fill gaps in your knowledge, to make links between bits of data you’ve gleaned, and to set your short, medium, and long-term priorities.

You’ll find some more useful tips in my previous article: How to manage your energy, not your time.

After 100 days

Celebrate your 100th day! Take time to communicate what you have learned so you can sense-check the conclusions you have drawn. You can then decide how best to “set out your stall” in terms of your plan.

Mark Stoddart, an ex-colleague of mine who specialises in recruitment, advises:

“I have been involved in hiring hundreds of people over the years and have seen many of their 100-day plans. The people who have been most effective and enjoy their first 100 days in a new role, are those who take time to listen and observe. There are normally reasons why things are done in a certain way. You may well need to change them, but this is usually most effective when you influence the change rather than demand it.”

Goleman: Six styles of leadership

Daniel Goleman has written extensively about emotional intelligence. His research shows that leadership style has a significant impact on results and this is certainly my experience too – the style of the leader shapes the culture of their organisation.

According to Goleman:

“Research has shown that the most successful leaders have strengths in the following emotional intelligence competencies: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.”

Therefore, as part of your 100 days, decide what leadership style you need to adopt, given the type of employees you have inherited, the situation you are in, and the challenges you are facing.

Goleman (Harvard Business Review: “Leadership That Gets Results”) proposes six basic styles of leadership that makes use of these emotional intelligence components. The best leaders have the skill to flex their styles:

Getting to know the people in your organisation

The Gallup organisation have done a lot of work linking employee engagement with business performance. They have identified six questions that most powerfully connect these two things. I am including them below as they will be useful for you to bear in mind in your 100 days – you may choose to ask these questions specifically or use them to guide you in understanding whether your employees have what they need:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the right materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

Your 100-day checklist

I hope this checklist provides a useful summary to guide you:

  • How will I understand the context of my organisation?
  • How long will I give myself before I need to start making decisions?
  • Who are my key stakeholders and how will I build my relationships with them?  What type of relationships do I want, and how will I know when I’ve achieved this?
  • What’s my plan for assessing the engagement, performance and talent in my organisation?
  • Have I thought through my communications plan – internal and external?
  • What aspects of my behaviour and style will I take with me into this new role and what will I leave behind?
  • What do I need to do to ensure I listen well and maintain an open mind?
  • How will I quickly establish credibility during these 100 days when I ideally want to avoid making big decisions?
  • What leadership style(s) will I adopt?
  • How will I control my agenda and manage my time?
  • How will I gather feedback during my first 100 days and ongoing after this, to keep me on track?

Enjoy the ride and good luck!

Please share this article with anyone you know who might find it interesting, and let me know if you’d like more information.

Next month we look at entrepreneurial thinking.