It's Your First Day. Now What?

Focusing on the keys to success as a new leader.
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First 100 Days

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GET STARTED THE RIGHT WAY

Starting in a new role or starting as a leader in a new organization can come with expectations, fear and anxiety. For the new leader, and current employees of the organization this is a time of change. Begin the first days and months by seeking to observe, learn and understand from the people around you. Get to know people throughout all levels of the organization. This is a time to be open, avoid making quick assumptions or judging. You may feel eager to prove yourself and hit the ground running, however it’s more important to make a positive impression. Information and relationships will be the key to success as a leader.

FOCUS ON BUILDING TRUST

The first 100 days is the perfect opportunity to begin building relationships with the people around you. Gathering as much information as you can about the organization and its culture will be valuable to you in the future. During this time, remind yourself of the old saying, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak,” by Epictetus. It may be tempting to think you’ve arrived at this position with all of the answers, but it’s most important to focus on listening. When the people around you feel heard and cared for, they begin to trust your leadership. Before trust is established, little can be accomplished. When you meet with your coworkers include getting to know them personally as one of your goals. Share your experiences with them, it takes being open, transparent and offering trust to be trusted in return.

Others in the organization will be learning about you as well, they may even have preconceived notions about you before you begin. During your first few months people are analyzing your behavior and what they can expect from you. Be aware of your attitudes, behaviors and energy; these days set the tone for your future and establish credibility. Act transparently and be open with people. Avoid any temptation to isolate yourself or focus on data over relationships. Take time to reflect on your leadership style and how that fits with the current cultural norms of the organization. Treat everyone with consistency, fairness, and according to the standards set forth by the organization.

Attempt to meet with employees at all levels in the organization within the first 100 days. If it’s a small organization meet with everyone, if it’s larger meet with as many as possible. Learn about each person, their job processes, what is working well in their opinion, what could be improved and what solutions that have to offer. If you are told about problems you are able to solve, solve them. Follow-through on providing people with training or tools their need to do their jobs well. This will not only improve the work environment, but it will build relationships with the people around you. When you hear of accomplishments and successes, recognize and reward those individuals.

As you learn more about the organization and what your role entails as a leader there, begin to prioritize what goals and actions will be taken. Start with two or three areas of focus at a time and avoid making drastic changes. Decide which goals should be accomplished within the next 6 months, the first year, and the second year you are there. When communicating any organization goals or changes start with explaining the reason why it is necessary. Make changes only after you fully understand the process, you can’t fix what you don’t understand, and you risk alienating staff.

The focus of the first 100 days should remain on people. Get to know people, listen to them, build relationships and understand the organization.  Your first priority is always to build trust with your team.

FIVE STEPS FOR THE FIRST 100 DAYS

Prepare

Observe and Learn  

  • Review all of your organization’s content possible such as training manuals, and reports
  • Set up meetings with employees at all levels of the organization
  • Seek to learn and understand as much as you can about practices, processes, the organization’s culture and the employees personally
  • Discuss what’s working well, areas that could be improved, and personal and professional goals

Look for Quick Wins

  • During your meetings and daily interactions with people look for ways to solve their problems and provide value to them
  • Celebrate successes and personal achievements
  • Establish trust and credibility

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

  • Learn from coworkers the organization’s pace and norms
  • Change often makes people uncomfortable, avoid making sudden changes especially during your first 100 days
  • Focus on identifying short term priorities, and making note of focus areas for the next year and the following year

Continue Relationship Building

  • Meet with as many employees as possible, depending on your position and the size of your organization it may be impossible to get to everyone
  • Establish consistent 1-1 meetings with those you supervise
  • Communicate with transparency; explain the reason why behind any decisions
  • Follow-through on information uncovered during meetings; make sure people have the tools and skills needed to do their jobs
  • Gather feedback and input during meetings and reflect on your own actions over your first 100 days.

Schedule Time for Note-Taking

Set aside specific time in your schedule after meetings to take notes. You’ll be meeting with many people and you’ll want to remember the valuable information you learned about the organization and them personally. Looking back on these notes will help you take action after your first 100 days have passed.

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