The First 100 Days of New Leadership
“I don’t have time to spend with my employees,” the new vice president complained. “I am always running to a meeting or trying to catch up on phone calls or trying to make sure I am reading what I need to read or signing papers. My employees should know what they need to do.” This new executive was in the first 100 days on the job, and he was failing. Why? He was invisible to his people. He took over and they barely saw him. He didn’t walk around. He didn’t know where their offices were. His office door was open, but he wasn’t there when his employees could see him. He made a cursory showing at a few official events, but he didn’t talk with anyone who worked for him. He was too busy chatting with the other Vice Presidents and the CEO. His team noticed. They felt he didn’t care about them. As a result, less than three months after he took over, his people dismissed him as one of those bosses who is more worried about his own career than helping his people. He lost the respect of his team and their productivity. The first 30, 60, and 90 days of a new position of responsibility are critically important. The “first 100 days” of a US presidency, an expression first used on July 24, 1933 in a radio address by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is now used to denote to future successes and failures of the 4-year term. We often use the “first 90 days” because most businesses use a quarterly approach to measuring profits and losses. Your first weeks on any new job are the most important. Our VP was failing and he knew it. “I don’t know what I am doing wrong, “ he confessed. He thought his new job would be easier than his last, with fewer hours and fewer demands. But he was barely keeping up. The idea of leaving his office, walking around, and talking to the 50 people who worked for him was pushed to the “important but not urgent” category. Within 12 months, he was “removed” because he could not coalesce the people assigned to his department. His people complained that he didn’t understand them, didn’t connect with them, and didn’t care about them. People need leaders who show up and show they are interested, both in the mission and the people who carry out the mission. Workers want to know that their supervisors know and appreciate the work they do. New leaders and managers often make 4 critical mistakes:
- They believe they will have more unscheduled time that they can use to spend with their employees.
- They miscalculate what they need to accomplish in the first 100 days that set themselves up for success over the long term.
- They underestimate the additional demands of the job; more meetings, more phone calls, more presentations, more client functions, and far, far more paperwork.
- They don’t realize how closely they are being watched by subordinates when they assume the job.
Remember, the bosses hired you. They are ones who want you in that job. They are sold on you. It is the employees who are uncertain. THEY should be your priority. Make your first 100 days count.