A 100-Day Plan – Key to Succeeding in a New Job
100 days to success in your new leadership role
Starting a leadership role at a venture-backed company is tremendously exciting but there is a lot on the line both for you and for the company you’ve joined. What can you do to increase the odds that you’ll knock the ball out of the park?
Dwight Eisenhower, the World War II army general and American president, once said: Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.
Going through the exercise of having a solid and well-thought out plan will not only give you sense of confidence going into your new job but it will also let you project the expertise and authority that creates a strong and positive first impression on your new colleagues. This is also important because it helps reassure the company and its investors that the company made the right hiring decision.
So, developing a plan sounds like a smart idea but what specifically should be included in your plan? Well, a great place to start is with a book called You’re In Charge – Now What? In it, the authors recommend creating a 100 day plan. Here’s a brief summary of how to do just that:
1. Begin preparing to succeed well before your first day on the job – Great athletes like Lance Armstrong prepare for victory long before the firing of the starting gun. Similarly, you should begin learning as much as possible about the new world you’re about to enter as soon as possible. Some successful executives put together a brain trust to help them collect and analyze information about their new employer’s competitors and customers so they can hit the ground armed with valuable knowledge and insights. Also, consider meeting informally with the companys sales people and others with direct access to market place information.
2. Align your expectations with those of the company –Properly setting expectations is one of the most important things a new leader must do but it is often overlooked, which can lead to misunderstandings, anxiety and, ultimately, failure. An indispensable part of aligning expectations is managing other people’s expectations of you. Succeeding here involves effectively answering three questions that your new colleagues are vitally interested in: Who is this person? Why did s/he get the job? What doe this mean for me? It is also important to ask the right questions of key colleagues and other stakeholders. These include: What are the top three things we need to change and why? What do you most hope I do? What are you most concerned that I might do? What advice do you have for me?
3. Develop a clear strategic agenda the integrates your goals with those of your company – While it’s vital to create a compelling picture of where you plan to lead your team, it is also important to not get prematurely locked into a plan of action before you fully appreciate your new environment. One way to do this is to create a strategic agenda, not a strategic plan. Such an agenda lays out the top priorities without necessarily proposing specific solutions. It is a powerful way to make the complex simple but not simplistic. A simple strategic agenda is one that is both memorable and easily understood.
4. Have a strategy for managing the expectations of your boss, the board and the company’s investors – Whether you report to a single person or a group, you need to quickly understand both the stated and unstated motivations of that higher authority. As a savvy professional, you know that winning your boss’s support involves more than just doing your job well. You must also demonstrate your loyalty, good judgment and ability to polish his/her/their personal brand. Regarding good judgment, all smart bosses classify their direct reports as sycophants, contrarians and those who provide objective and balanced advice. Aim to be in the last group. To maximize your effectiveness at making your boss look good, consider talking with others in the company to see how h/she is perceived and what kinds of results or initiatives would enhance his/her reputation within the company.
5. Be ready to invest a lot of time and energy in communicating with those around you – The most brilliant strategic plan isn’t worth much unless it is effectively communicated to those who can either help or hinder its implementation. And effective communication requires both analytical reasoning and emotional reasoning. Consider the power of deeply personal storytelling as a means of sharing your vision and gaining commitment from those you need to make that vision a reality. A great example of the power of this kind of storytelling is how Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, used the story of his father’s misfortunes to make offering full medical benefits to almost all Starbucks employees a central part of the company’s business strategy.
6. Keep your eye out for common pitfalls – Most executives have the intelligence, expertise and drive to overcome any obstacles they encounter. What cause failure, sometimes spectacular failure, are softer issues such as poor communication, misaligned expectations or the need to be seen as the company savior. Some symptoms of these root causes include setting unrealistic expectations by overpromising, acting either rashly or too timidly,coming across as a know-it-all and stifling dissent.
If you’ve worked with an executive recruiter in landing your new position, do include him or her in planning a successful transition. An experienced and knowledgeable search consultant can be one of your most valuable allies in this endeavor. Your consultant has spent a lot of time developing a deep understanding of the company, its strategy and operations as well as the personalities and other intangibles that can make or break any professional transition. He or she has also studied the industry and should have good understanding of industry dynamics and the other important players in it. Because of this, he or she can often be a great confidential sounding board to make sure you are making all of the right moves in your new adventure.