New Leader’s Success Plan

How to win at your job in the first 100 days

(Illustration by Richard Borge)

Almost half of all new hires fail in their first 18 months on the job, cites a study by Leadership IQ, a management consulting firm.  “What an executive does in the initial months of a new job will either secure or sabotage her success in that role,” says LaVonne Dorsey, executive career coach and human resources practitioner for Feroce Consulting.

Most of these failures are the result of mistakes such as failing to obtain buy-in, or focusing energy in the wrong areas, explains Dorsey. New hires are under heightened scrutiny, says leadership coach Kym Harris, Ed.D. “Job transitions can be riddled with pitfalls,” Harris states, “but, careful planning, preparation, and purposeful action can enable to professionals get off to a successful start.” Consider this 100-day action plan:

DAYS 1–6: Make proper introductions.
Meet key stakeholders, including your direct boss, subordinates, peers, and customers. Use your introductions and early actions to communicate what matters most, suggests  authors George Bradt, Jayme Check, and Jorge Pedraza in The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results (John Wiley & Sons; $25.95). Let your colleagues know who you are, what you stand for, and what you expect to accomplish.

DAYS 7–14: Ask 20 questions.
Start developing relationships to establish credibility and build support by soliciting stakeholders’ input. Conduct one-on-one interviews, in which Harris recommends posing several questions: What top three things does the company get right? What are the three things we need to change and why? What do you most hope I do? What might I do that has you most concerned and why? Can I count on your support?

DAYS 15–29: Size up the situation.
Understanding the culture is important. “The most effective plans take current organizational realities into account,” Harris explains. It’s important to assess the company, its challenges, and the manner in which it handles them. Understand how decisions are made and determine stakeholders’ tolerance for change, risk, and failure.

DAYS 30–44: Decide on a course of action.
Identify your prime objectives for the next 60 days. “Fix obvious impediments and pursue easy opportunities,” says Dorsey.  Create a “burning imperative,” advises Bradt, Check, and Pedraza,  which is a clear, sharply defined, intensely shared, and urgent understanding of what actions team members must immediately take, coupled with how those actions align with the larger vision and goals of the organization.

DAYS 45–59: Implement your plan.
“Stay fixed on your goal, but be flexible in your approach,” cautions Harris. Discuss implementation daily, while gauging progress and addressing setbacks with continual correction. Keep stakeholders informed.

DAYS 60–74: Celebrate early wins.
“Find every opportunity you can to show that you lead a team that delivers,” insists Dorsey. Regularly and rapidly, bring attention to your team’s accomplishments. Early wins give the leader credibility and provide team confidence and momentum. Recognize them publicly. Acknowledge both collective and individual contributions.

DAYS 75–100: Make necessary changes.
Leverage your success to support necessary changes in direction, processes, and staff. “Reflect on the last three months and assess the staff to determine that the right talent is in place,” says Harris.  “Decide what processes will change and what practices will be eliminated in an effort to sustain positive momentum.”

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