You have already achieved much, and you have demonstrated your worth. This has helped you to secure a great new role at the executive or upper management level. But what comes next? How do you negotiate the transition from a newcomer into a fully-fledged leader and profit driver? There is no definitive answer to this, and each case is different. However, there are certain actions to take, and tasks to complete, to get you where you need to be.
How you implement these actions will depend on your own style and the specifics of your role, but this checklist will help you to gain the insight and understanding you need to realise success in the opening phases of your new role. Structure and direction are crucial here, so read on and develop your plan of action.
ANALYSIS AND UNDERSTANDING – ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Taking on a new role at the executive level will always involve a collision of knowns and unknowns. For leaders exploring this new role, it’s important to try to turn these unknowns into knowns wherever possible, casting the light of analysis and understanding over an uncertain landscape.
This means asking the right questions, deriving a foundation of knowledge upon which to build.
Reaching out directly to your team, as well as to your management peers or to anyone else within the executive stratum, will help you to gain this foundation. Questions need to be meaningful, leading to answers that support you as you action key tasks in your new role.
This is essentially groundwork that helps you move quickly and effectively through your checklist in the first 100 days.
HOW IS THE COMPANY POSITIONED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE
OF CURRENT AND FUTURE MARKET CONDITIONS?
2022 saw consumers and businesses alike struggling with soaring interest rates and the threat of recession. In the Euro Zone alone, consumer prices experienced year-to-date growth of 10.7% in October, highlighting how drastically market conditions can shift in only a short time. Business stakeholders need a very clear understanding of how the company is currently weathering these conditions and how it is positioned to meet predicted changes in the future.
WHAT SETS US APART FROM OUR COMPETITORS?
All businesses exist in a niche – i.e., they offer something that makes them more attractive than their competitors. This might involve specific products, areas of expertise, quality,
price, convenience, something else, or a combination of all of the above. There are many different unique selling propositions, and all can be viable, but you’ll need to be clear on what yours is.
TO WHAT EXTENT DOES THE COMPANY
HAVE AN AGILE CULTURE?
There are essentially two definitions of the word agile. One – agile, an adjective meaning able to shift direction and focus quickly and effectively. Two – Agile, a software development methodology that utilises concepts of collaboration and autonomy to meet job-specific goals. From a project management point of view, an agile culture may take cues from both camps, achieving real flexibility and leaving the business open to growth and development opportunities. However, you’ll need to ascertain just how agile the culture really is.
TO WHAT EXTENT DO EMPLOYEES BUY INTO THE COMPANY CULTURE?
Company culture can refer to different things, but the unifying element is the pervading feeling and ethos of the business. This can include values of sustainability and positivity, as well as just generally being a pleasant place in which to work. And culture is important – as much as 88% of job seekers describe a healthy workplace culture as vital for success. It’s also a rallying point – a shared identity that team members can get behind.
WHAT ISSUES HAS THE COMPANY FACED IN THE PAST?
In your new role, you need to know which direction you should be moving in. While a comparison to the old ways of doing things should not dictate your entire focus, it does provide insight into what is working and what needs to change. This will help you to make those all-important opening moves during the first 100 days – and will guide you as you aim to become more successful than your predecessor.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND YOUR RECENT WINS?
There will be wins in your new organisation’s recent history, but simply recognising these wins may not be enough. You need to know what led to these victories and understand the positives you can build upon as you work towards more positive milestones in the future.
WHAT ARE THE KEY DRAINS IN TERMS OF TIME, RESOURCES AND CAPITAL?
Research from the United Kingdom conducted in the first half of 2022 found that the cost of doing business rose significantly in Q2, growing more rapidly than in any quarter since 2008.
This means businesses need to be aware of how they are spending their money, and they must also understand their resource and time allocation. Drains on these critical inputs can quickly become problematic, so gaining a clear picture of the most time-, resource- and cost-intensive aspects of operation is crucial.
WHICH OFFERINGS ARE THE MOST PROFITABLE, AND WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT THE LEAST PROFITABLE?
When products and services are achieving sales, it’s sometimes easy to lose track of their profitability. This is because some offerings cost more than others to bring to market. Gaining this data will help you understand where efficiency can be improved in the opening quarters of your new role, driving direct revenue increases while bringing costs down at the same time.
HOW DO WE DEFINE THE SHORT-, MEDIUM- AND LONG-TERM VISION FOR THE COMPANY?
Your company will have an overarching vision – an identity that customers and employees alike can identify with. However, this will be supported by short-term and medium-term incremental goals, as well as milestones that provide insight into progress. It’s important to ascertain where the company, the management, and the rest of the team expect the business to be at the end of these 100 days, in six months, in one year, or in five years. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction.
HOW IS THE COMPANY BRINGING IN NEW CUSTOMERS
AND RETAINING EXISTING ONES?
A classic marketing stat is that bringing in a new customer costs five times as much as simply keeping hold of an existing one. Whether this statistic is wholly accurate is up for debate, but there is certainly some truth there – it is cheaper to retain customers, and so retention needs to be an important area of focus. Both acquisitions and retentions are important for your business, and you need to know where you stand on both activities.
10 KEY TASKS TO BE ACTIONED
– THE 100-DAY CHECKLIST
Asking the right questions represents the first phase in your strategy. Next comes action – the key tasks you’ll need to complete over your first 100 days. Let’s take a look.
CREATE THE RIGHT KIND OF FAMILIARISATION OPPORTUNITIES
Familiarisation – this is an important concept in business leadership. Your team members and your peers need to be familiar with you and what you represent, growing their understanding of your personal leadership style and your outlook. You also need to achieve the same with your peers and with the personnel who work around you, getting to know more about their individual personalities, their aims, their views, and their backgrounds.
This doesn’t happen by accident, and you’ll need to create opportunities that enable this – for example, large-scale introductory meetings that lay the groundwork for future relationships, followed by smaller-scale departmental meetings that help to build this familiarity. Depending on the size and structure of the organisation, this may be followed up by even smaller-scale meetings as and when required.
It’s vital to think about ‘the right kind of familiarisation’. Statistics show that employees value communication skills and interpersonal skills in their leaders, with 45.2% and 44.2% of survey respondents selecting these aspects.
However, values and ethics (41.9%) were not far behind, and coaching and feedback (21.8%), credibility (22.3%), and direction and strategy (16.7%) all also featured highly on the list. This shows us that employees value warm and communicative leaders, but they are not looking for ‘friends’ in this traditional sense – they still want to be managed and directed by people who have leadership credentials and credibility. Make sure all familiarisation meetings retain the proper level of professionalism.
RECOGNISE RECENT SUCCESSES AND POINTS OF FRICTION
You have already asked a number of questions that have helped you to learn more about the company. Now, you need to examine some of the answers you received – specifically, the answers relating to past issues and victories.
There will be positive aspects of the organisation’s recent past – big clients won and retained or successful products and services that exceeded expectations. Consider these, give credit to those that made it happen, and think about how such successes can be tuned up even further in the future. These past victories become blueprints for future success.
There will be negative aspects too. Don’t ignore these, but don’t single people out or point fingers either. Examine the recent losses – clients who headed elsewhere, products that flopped at the market – and adopt a clear-eyed approach. View these losses as opportunities to learn and grow so that everyone involved can move forward with enhanced understanding and insight.
FOCUS ON PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WITHIN THE NEW ROLE
The executive education program market reached almost $38 billion worldwide in 2021, demonstrating how important development and growth are to management and executive-level personnel.
While you won’t find the time to pursue formal further education at learning institutions as you execute your role, you will need to pursue other types of education.
Consider internal training and upskilling programs that help you to get into the mindset of the people who will be working for you, gaining a broader perspective on how the business operates.
It may also be worthwhile to consider your past performance, analysing your own strengths and weaknesses. How can you enhance these strengths to better meet the needs of the new role, and how can you work on these weaknesses to eliminate potential vulnerabilities? Both personal and professional development are ongoing journeys, helping you to become a better version of yourself. You’ve already achieved successes in your career, but you can always go further, building upon this foundation.
Searching out learning opportunities will help you gain the skills you need to achieve your aims. It will also demonstrate to others your proactive mindset and willingness to learn.
UNDERSTAND PRECISELY WHAT YOU ARE DEALING WITH
A new role will involve technology and systems that are designed to help the business achieve its aims. Even if you are not going to be using these systems directly, you’ll still need a strong understanding of how all of this works and how it fits into the broader operational ecosystem.
Take your time to research these different systems, and make sure you have log-in and access credentials for all of them. Undergo training on how to utilise these systems and devices correctly, building on the professional development and education we’ve discussed above.
Growing your understanding of the tech and software landscape within the organisation will help you communicate more effectively with other team members. After all, these team members are utilising the solutions on a daily basis, so you will need shared knowledge if you are to discuss issues and best practices. This brings us to another key aspect of understanding – people.
In your first 100 days, you’ll need to know what you are working with in terms of workplace culture and politics. You’ll need to recognise any potential areas of friction, as well as areas in which the company culture is positive and highly effective. We’ll talk more about communication and collaboration below, but these first points of contact will be key as you establish trust and cooperation across all levels of the organisation.
TICK OFF SOME IMMEDIATE TARGETS
Early in your role, you need to start identifying the low-hanging fruit – i.e., the early wins and targets you can achieve quickly and easily for you and your team. This is crucial for a number of reasons, the first being momentum and morale. If you are scoring victories immediately, morale will begin to climb within your team, and you will find that this strength of feeling within the company helps to propel the business forward.
Second, this will help you to establish your own position within the company. When we tick something off a checklist – a list just like this one – we experience a release of dopamine that helps us to feel positive about what we are doing. It also reinforces the perception held by others in the organisation, providing evidence that you are the right person for the job.
Finally, it helps you to establish further objectives as you fulfil your role. Before you’ve got any victories against your name, it can be tricky to understand which direction to move in. We’ll discuss this in a little more detail below.
ESTABLISH MILESTONES AND PARAMETERS
Milestones and parameters add structure to your endeavours, giving you something to aim for as well as an idea of what success will look like when you get there.
On a personal level, written goals and milestones dramatically increase the chances of success – by up to 42% in some cases. Taking the time to outline your goals in a written document will assist you as you navigate the first 100 days in your new role.
All of these milestones need to be SMART. In other words, they need to be specific (S), measurable (M), achievable (A), relevant (R), and time bound (T).
So, define your goals clearly, decide on the metric you will use to gain them, select incremental milestones that you are sure to achieve, ensure they align with your longer-term objectives, and set yourself a timeframe for task completion.
This is designed to keep you on track and moving in the right direction. The psychology of a monumental long-term goal is simply too overwhelming, and it’s easy to become lost on the way. Setting clearly-defined milestones and parameters will help you tick off incremental goals along the way, just like you ticked off those early wins above.
PUT THE RIGHT PEOPLE AROUND YOU
While you will be taking on new responsibilities and duties as part of your role, you won’t be doing all of this yourself. Instead, you’ll need to build a team that can assist you as you move towards your defined goals and milestones. It’s likely that the business already has a great team of highly skilled, highly suitable individuals ready to help you move in the right direction, but you will need to re-examine this team first.
To begin with, you’ll need to get to know the team you are currently working with. For smaller-scale operations, this is relatively straightforward. For larger-scale enterprises, however, this will involve liaising with departmental managers and other leaders within the organisation. Once you have a better understanding of the skillsets and backgrounds you are working with, you can begin restructuring teams to ensure everyone is in a role that supports their key capabilities and competencies.
This may also need to be supported by a hiring strategy. Be clear on the gaps you need to fill within your team, and then work methodically to fill these gaps with highly effective professionals who are equipped to take the company to where it needs to be.
MAKE TIME FOR COMMUNICATION AND COLLABORATION
Make communication a two-way street within your organisation. Firstly, you’ll need to make sure that your views are broadly known and understood by staff members at all levels of the organisation, including your management peers. You were hired because of the strengths and potential you bring to the team, so you’ll need to communicate these in a clear and concise manner. This will help staff members and other stakeholders get used to what you represent and understand the future direction of the organisation.
Communication needs to move in the other direction too. Personnel across each department and each level need to know that they can have their voices heard, offering their own input on collaborative tasks. This is of course critical for broad engagement on a company-wide basis and also for gaining access to diverse viewpoints and outlooks. The data you receive from these sessions can be highly valuable in problem-solving, troubleshooting, and general strategising for the future.
You’ll need confidence in order to achieve significant successes, but this confidence needs to be tempered with realism and with the right approach to progress. Setting yourself rigid, inflexible targets can cause problems if these targets are not met, so it’s better to allow yourself some leeway in terms of incremental progress. Even if you are meeting your targets, overreaching or moving too quickly can result in issues further down the line, including burnout.
This realism should be an ongoing part of your new role as manager and leader. We’ve touched on communication and collaboration sessions above, but you’ll also want to think about taking time to focus on your own progress here and there. Aim to build these sessions into your weekly schedule where possible, giving yourself time to understand how you are progressing on a micro-basis.
Be realistic about your expectations for your team members too. Sustainable growth needs to be built upon trust and empathy, and this will come from understanding the challenges of your personnel and working to achieve a positive working environment.
LOOK TOWARDS THE LONG TERM
While the first 100 days provides a handy round number that you can use to achieve early progress, it’s important to remember that this 100 days is not an endpoint. Instead, it’s the end of the first phase and the transition into the next. So once you have actioned most or all of the other items on your checklist, you will need to start looking towards the future.
Now is a good time to take stock. Are there any items on our checklist that remain outstanding? Is there anything you hoped to do that you could not achieve, and why is this? If there are things you have not achieved, this is not a disaster – there may simply have been unforeseen circumstances or other factors that got in the way. Consider whether you need to recalibrate and shift your targets as you look towards the long term.
The end of your first 100 days is also a good opportunity to consider how you are doing from a people point of view. By now, people at all levels should be familiar with who you are and what you represent and should understand the vision you have for the company.
THE FIRST 100 DAYS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE – TWO CASE STUDIES
What does a successful first 100 days really look like?
Let’s examine a couple of hypothetical case studies.
CASE STUDY #1: SOPHIE
Sophie replaces an outgoing executive at a pharmaceutical company that has been struggling in the past few years. She analyses the market and recognises that the industry as a whole has been performing well recently, largely thanks to increased investment,
research and demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. From here, she realises that the organisation has not been identifying and acting upon key opportunities in the market.
To understand this better, she conducts meetings with personnel at different levels of the company, gaining insight into the positive and negative aspects of workplace culture. She discovers that the company’s research and development strategies are largely reactive, and the company is acting on opportunities only when competitors already have a head start. She also finds that R&D is largely unfocused and that individual departments are expected to put forward their own ideas for new products and initiatives.
As part of her incremental goal setting, Sophie decides to put together a small and dedicated R&D team who can identify these opportunities before they arise. She offers close support to these R&D personnel, restructuring their schedules to minimise disruption while collecting regular feedback. Once the business case for dedicated R&D is demonstrated, Sophie convenes another meeting at which new product launch and revenue targets are discussed for the coming year.
CASE STUDY #2: JEREMY
Jeremy arrives at a managed service provider, offering software on an SaaS basis in the B2B market. The company’s software and services have been performing well, and the organisation receives excellent levels of regular income from subscriptions, exceeding initial projections made in the last couple of years.
Everything seems to be going great for Jeremy, and he would almost be forgiven for relaxing and letting the team do its work. However – being a conscientious leader – he decides not to do this. Instead, he delves deeper into the figures and learns about what is driving the success. Gathering data from team members and from clients, he discovers that the company’s software is excellent, receiving glowing feedback from all users. As clients have very few problems with the software, there is very little call for support and other managed services, so revenue remains static.
Jeremy presents this data to other members of the management team, outlining how the company has developed a reliable foundation for success. Along with these executive peers and departmental heads, Jeremy begins to discuss how to enhance the full lifecycle value of customers while retaining all of the advantages that have made the company such a success in the first place. New targets are set, and the team begins to research add-on services and potential third-party partnerships that will turn the company into a comprehensive one-stop shop that covers a broader range of customer needs.
SUMMARISING YOUR PLAN OF ACTION
IN THOSE FIRST 100 DAYS
The first thing you’ll need to do is ask those critical questions.
This lays the groundwork for great communication that will characterise your leadership approach. Next comes action:
• Get to know everyone and make sure they get to know you.
• Understand what’s working and what’s not.
• Move forward on your path of learning and development.
• Learn the practical aspects of operations.
• Hit those early targets.
• Establish your SMART goals.
• Build your teams.
• Foster a culture of communication and collaboration.
• Adopt a realistic approach.
• Build towards long-term successes.
Working with a trusted recruitment partner can help you to make sure you have the right personnel on your side during those critical early stages of a new role.
Schedule an initial call with Mike at Exec Assignments to learn more about this
and lay the groundwork for long-term success.