10 tips to make the most of your first 100 days

As Theresa May is about to find out, it's vital for new leaders to get off to a flying start. Here are 10 tips from the c-suite that you don't even have to be in cabinet to learn from.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 14 Jul 2016

Like many a struggling business, UK plc is in a turnaround situation, and how well or otherwise the new CEO and top team handle this vital strategic inflection point is one of the nation's more important challenges of recent years.

Fortunately, there is a well understood gameplan for the First 100 days in a new leadership role. It’s one that Theresa May and her cabinet could do worse than take a good look at.

And although it’s now most commonly encountered in the boardroom, the original First 100 Days was the period at the start of Franklin D Roosevelt’s presidency.  Starting from March 4 1933, FDR famously enacted 15 major laws, sent 15 messages to congress, delivered 10 keynote speeches, chaired cabinet meetings twice a week and basically saved America and the western world from total financial and social collapse.

So as far as advice to HMG goes on what to do between now and Oct 22, the precedent could hardly be better.

1. Prioritise

What are the life-threatening injuries, and what’s more of a flesh wound? Remember that underlying problems are harder to diagnose but can be can be equally fatal.  

2. Listen, but not too much

It’s important to know what your people think and feel, so find out. But the final judgment is yours, and you’ll never have perfect information so don’t loiter over decisions.

3. Demonstrate leadership

You’ve got to have a plan (unless you’re Boris Johnson of course). Where are you going? How are you going to get there? What does everyone have to do to play their part?

4. Set out your vision

The plan should be practical but it must also inspire – what’s going to get better, when, and for whom? Even if the details then have to change in repsonse to events, your vision can remain intact.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate

You simply cannot explain your vision too vigorously or too often. Get it out there and across all the channels – internal meetings, traditional media, social platforms. Leave no doubt as to your intentions.

6. Keep yourself fit for the fight

Eat and sleep properly, get some exercise. It’s going to be tough and intense so don’t forget to look after yourself.

7. Stop doing your old job – it’s someone else’s now

This is a classic failing of internal promotions who have been successful in their previous roles (yes we’re looking at you Theresa). So do your job and let Amber Rudd get on with hers. (Bo-Jo has never really had a job, so this one doesn’t really apply to him either).

8. Deal with legacy issues quickly

there’s never a better time to tackle the mistakes of your predecessors than right at the start.

9. Stay calm and be optimistic

You’re under intense scrutiny, so remain cool and cheerful, and try to look sharp and behave professionally even if you don’t always feel it. (Again unless you’re Bo-Jo. Why is he always the exception to the rule?)

10. Keep a close eye on the numbers

Solvency is a necessary if insufficient condition for success, as the mathematicians say. In other words, money alone won’t fix your problems, but be very careful not to run out completely or it’s game over. Phillip Hammond, take note.


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