Forty percent of new leaders fail in their first eighteen months.
Those that take their onboarding seriously, get a head start, manage their message and build their team in time to make the most of their first 100-days do dramatically better than those that just apply the way they’ve always led to their new situations. In any case, new leaders’ first 100-days are just the beginning. They have to keep building, evolving their leadership, practices and culture to deliver results going forward.
The 100-day mark is a good moment for new leaders to assess their progress so they can determine what they should keep, stop and start doing – and how – to be even more effective with their team or the enterprise as a whole.
Think in terms of doing an after action review on the first 100-days by answering these questions:
1. What were our intended results?
2. What were our actual results?
3. What caused our results? (Differences versus going in assumptions)
4. What should we sustain/keep doing? (Things that have been the most valuable) or
5. What should we improve/change/stop? (To make things even better)
If you want more insight into the leaders themselves, answer these questions as well:
• What is it that the new leader does that is particularly effective? What should they keep doing?
• What does the new leader do that gets in the way of their effectiveness? What should they stop doing?
• What else could the new leader do to be even more effective? What should they start doing?
From there, it is an opportune time for new leaders to decide how they are going to evolve their practices to capitalize on changing circumstances – especially around people, plans, performance tracking and program management.
One core assumption is that these new leaders managed their own executive onboarding well and used their first 100-days to jumpstart strategic, organizational and operating processes. With those in hand, they can no longer blame previous administrations for poor strategic direction, below standard people or unproductive operations. New leaders now own their results.
If there are strategic issues left unresolved, they should resolve them now.
If the wrong people are on the bus, they should remove them now.
If basic operating practices don’t work, they should fix them now.
With those in place, leaders must keep evolving their practices to deal with changes down the road.
After 100 days, new leaders’ view of their organizations’ cultures should be sharper than when they started. They should also know how they want to evolve their cultures. Now is time to zero in on the biggest gaps and implement plans to create and maintain winning cultures, remembering that culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage.
New leaders must converge into existing cultures and then evolve them from the inside. That convergence will take different leaders different amounts of time. By the end of 100-days, most leaders should have either pivoted from converge to evolve or be ready to pivot.
Now is the time to be brave. New leaders need to be courageous and think through the behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values and environment required to deliver their missions and achieve their visions. If they haven’t answered the five brave questions before, they should do so now. (Where to play? What matters and why? How to win? How to connect? What impact?)
Transitions are fraught with risk. Leaders start with imperfect information. Some things work better than expected. Some things turn out to be harder or more complicated or in worse shape than expected. New leaders can’t control that.
What they can control is how they react and adjust to those surprises. Shame on new leaders that fail to adjust. They are more prone to failure, dragging down all those that depend on them. Kudos to leaders that evolve their own leadership, practices and the culture, setting themselves and their enterprises up to deliver better results – not only faster – but also, sustainably, over time.
By George Bradt
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