The First 100 days – and how to survive them

Posted on Tuesday, August 8th, 2006 by

Spare a thought for Steve McClaren. Not only must the new England manager restore the hopes of a nation (a strategy for winning on penalties surely a top priority?!) he only has 100 days to make it or break it in his new position. “As with any high profile appointment, whether it’s becoming a CEO, Prime Minister or in this case, England manager, the first 100 days are taken as a yardstick for assessing the quality of a new leader’s start,” says Chapple Director, Suzannah Chapple. Whilst there’ll be obvious differences between Steve’s game plan and that of his corporate equivalent, when it comes to surviving – and succeeding in – the first 100 days, Suzannah believes the same rules apply. “At this kind of level, a balance needs to be struck between distinguishing oneself from a predecessor without getting too many people offside,” she says. Here’s her advice on how to survive the first 100 days of a new job. Steve, take note… The Warm Up Before you even start your new job, take time to assess your strengths and weaknesses. You were hired for your strengths, but a strong leader should be able to do for themselves what they are expected to do for the whole organisation – acknowledge behavioural weaknesses and have strategies in place to overcome them. Ask yourself: ‘what impact do I want to have?’; ‘what will I do differently this time?’ and; ‘what will I keep the same’? By keeping a record of your answers, you’ll be able to see whether you are still on track three months on. Pitch Yourself Correctly Whilst being the new kid on the block puts you in a unique position to question everything, your actions will be scrutinised both on – and off – the pitch. You’ll have to remain consistent if you are to win people’s trust. Other good tactics include avoiding talking about your old job. Use your experience and expertise by all means but banging on about ‘how you used to do it’ can put you on the fast track to the substitution bench. Kick Off! When it comes to strategy, succeeding in a new job is a game of three thirds rather than two halves according to Suzannah. “The format for the first 100 days should be to listen, to plan and to execute – in that order.” It can be very tempting, particularly if you’ve been brought in on a change agenda or have big (football) boots to fill, to rush into making big changes to establish yourself in the first few weeks. Don’t. Instead, manage expectations, reassuring all levels of the organisation that there will be no immediate changes. Use this ‘honeymoon period’ to observe, listen, absorb, ask questions and above all, remain open minded before formulating your game plan. Identify Key Players Teamwork is everything. A good leader surrounds themselves with those who are strong where they are weak. Get a feel for the team as individuals and as a group, their preferred way of working and their personal style. Decide how you can get the best from them. The Game Plan Committing to acting on what you’ve learned during the listening phase – including gauging the opinions of critics – should form a major part of your game plan. It’s only once you’ve assessed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your organisation that you are ready for the second and third phases of the first 100 days; planning and execution. Suzannah says that although there’s no set time frame for planning and execution, “it’s generally expected for a leader to be able to communicate their vision and strategy, outlining their short and medium term objectives after about six weeks. Getting the right balance between analysis and action is a must.” She also emphasises the importance of communication. A good leader should be able to both paint an inspiring picture of the future and outline how the organisation will attain that vision. Constant and consistent communication of the overall goal will ensure that every member of the team is pulling the same way. Don’t Score an Own Goal Failure to manage upwards is one of the most common ways of scoring an own goal in your new post. Establish who has the power in the organisation and make sure they are kept as informed of your intentions as the people you were actually brought in to manage. Observe the Offside Rule If there’s one injury that should be avoided during the first 100 days, it’s the out of joint nose. Don’t get people offside by flexing your management muscle too quickly, too powerfully or too often just because you can. “Three months is a short enough time to make long term enemies,’ says Suzannah, “so it makes sense to keep as many people onside as you can. After all, you never know when you might need them.” Extra Time In a top level position, there’s no such thing as extra time. If you haven’t made your mark in the first 100 days, expect to be kicked into touch – or kicked out altogether.