How to survive your first 100 days in a new business

Your first 100 days in a new or changed role can make or break you, says First100's leadership expert Garrett O'Keeffe. Here's how to make sure you win the respect of your staff and colleagues - and avoid any damaging slip-ups.

by Garrett O'Keeffe
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

The first 100 days in a new role set the tone for your longer term leadership. Get off to a strong, accelerated start and the likelihood is that you will continue that way. But it's not easy. The first 100 days are often characterised by an intense learning curve and can be very emotionally charged. Your ‘mood’ will swing between supreme confidence and severe self-doubt. Be aware of the following, and you won't be caught off-balance:

-    Time pressures

-    An intense learning curve

-    Being overwhelmed with immediate ‘fire fighting’ and task-driven priorities

-    Needing to invest in building new networks and forging new relationships

-    Dealing with legacy issues from your predecessor

-    Challenges on inheriting or building a team and having to make tough personnel decisions

-    Lack of experience of company culture, leading to inadvertent early mistakes

-    Getting the balance right between moving too quickly and moving too slowly

Not to heap added presure on you, but this is the first measurement point whereby many people will judge you – your boss (if there is one), your peers, your team and even the market. So it is essential that not only you survive this period but do a stellar job.

There are a number of ways in which you can achieve this:

1. You need to completely let go of your old role (not always easy to do if you are an internal employee). You will end up doing two jobs badly if you can’t.

2. Be ‘fit’ emotionally and physically. Eat right, take care f your body, and get enough sleep. You need to be in tip-top condition.

3. Understand and identify the key challenges outlined above. Which of these apply to you?

4. Build a very clear profile of your role, the organisation and the market. This is almost like a leadership SWOT analysis (a list of strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

5. Start with the end in mind. Make a two-year plan for your role and then note down your 12-month strategic priorities. Once this is done you are ready to write your 100-day plan.

Writing a plan sounds like an easy task but in fact most ‘plans’ end up being ‘To Do’ lists – this will not be good enough. If you want to really get under the skin of your new role and make it a success then you need to create a proper, structured 100-day plan. Break this down into 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. Rather than bullet points with 'I will do x or y', try writing down ideal outcomes instead - more working backwards. And make your goals achievable. Ambition is to be commended but you will make yourself feel like a failure if you set the bar far too high. 

With some careful advance planning and strong decision-making, you'll not only survive the first 100 days; you will thrive.

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