For new CEOs, the first 100 days are critical to establish trust and credibility among employees, stakeholders, partners and community members. Yes, you’ll need a plan (more on that later) but as you focus on the big picture, you can take immediate actions to help create a strong foundation.
- Introduce yourself. You’ll have a lot of introductory meetings in the days and weeks ahead, though it’s important to connect with employees Day 1. Whether by all-employee meeting or company-wide email, speak generally about what you hope to accomplish. Communicate about the things that move you. Your deeply held philosophies and values need to come across loud and clear. If you run a “go hard or go home, 24/7/365” operation, convey that. If work-life balance and livable schedules are core to your leadership style, communicate that. Your deeply held business beliefs – an emphasis on early technology adoption, a promote-from-within preference, a bias toward acquisition over organic growth — are unlikely to change, and your team needs to understand them from the start.
- Listen to learn. You are new to this position and need to get an accurate lay of the land. If you’ve risen from among the existing leadership team, you likely already have a good sense of the opportunities and challenges that will greet you in this new role. Even armed with this first-hand insight, your listening tour will demonstrate to your executive team that you value their perspective while helping to shift the relationship dynamics from that of peer to that of CEO.If you’re new to the organization, investing time in getting to know your team will be time well spent. Educating yourself and establishing trust are crucial to success.
- Ask the right questions. Take a full-scope approach to learning and assessing. Sure, the perspective of your executive team will be invaluable, but so will the experiences and recommendations of your customer service team, sales leaders, front-line workers, HR recruiters and IT project managers. Outside of the company, how is the business seen by competitors? Industry analysts? Clients? Vendors? Partners? Trade media? Social media influencers? Other key stakeholders (Board members, decision-makers and elected officials)? Much can be learned by asking a few key questions: What are we doing well? What do you think is our company’s biggest weakness? How would you change company leadership if you had the chance?
- Assess the data. In addition to relying on the insights of your team, ask to see metrics. From measurable business objectives to competitor share of voice to employee and customer engagement – how is the company doing? Depending on the size of the company, a CEO may not have visibility in the day-to-day strategies and tactics that contribute to the metrics, but he or she will want to ensure that endeavors and investments are aligned with the overarching business objectives of the company. A new CEO also should get a clear picture of the former CEO’s communications style, methods and frequency, as well as any available learnings regarding their effectiveness.
- Be human. The first few days (and weeks and months) in a new leadership position can be overwhelming, and you may feel the need to keep your focus on all things business. However, presenting yourself as a whole person to employees provides an opportunity for meaningful connection. As appropriate, share non-work facets about your life, such as family, favorite sport teams or hobbies.
We recommend you apply the insights you’ve gleaned to a 100-day plan that addresses opportunities and challenges that need your attention as a new leader. In a future blog post, we’ll provide helpful recommendations for communications considerations by audience to help jump-start the process.