First impressions count, and with new employees and stakeholders to impress, the first three months is a critical period for every new boss. Having a clear and realistic 100-day plan establishes where you need to prioritise your time in what is always a very busy period.
Arm yourself with as much business intelligence as possible before you start. Rather than diving straight into the detail, ask team leaders to provide you with SWOTs and market and competitor summaries. It’s also worth meeting senior staff informally in the months before you start to understand their priorities and where they see opportunities for change.
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The most effective 100-day plans are flexible: ‘a plan to plan’, if you like. Rather than having all the answers on day one, use your plan to carve out time for strategic planning and to set deadlines for yourself and your teams.
The first three months always fly by so setting realistic goals and deadlines is key; you can’t do everything straight away, so be practical about what’s achievable. Start off with a long-list of goals but be brutal about dividing them into immediate priorities and things that can wait.
It’s important to maintain this same focus when you start the job. Don’t get side-tracked by less urgent tasks. Your management team can help here: brief them on your immediate priorities and they can filter out the non-essentials.
Week one is all about visibility and communication.
You only get one chance to make a first impression with employees, so it’s important to be as visible and approachable as possible in your first week. As well as an office walk-around, carve out time in your plan to meet employees in smaller groups, to get their feedback, and consider an open-door policy to encourage staff to drop in.
It’s rarely possible to meet all of the company’s stakeholders within your first month, let alone week, but there needs to be some communication with them – even if it’s just a letter or email to arrange a meeting in the future. Your communications team will be able to help you rank the company’s stakeholders in terms of priority; a letter or email will be sufficient for some, whereas priority stakeholders may require a telephone call in your first week. Stakeholder meetings are key in the first three months and will need to be built into your 100-day plan.
You’re not expected to have all of the answers straight away, but there are a couple of ‘must dos’ before you hit the three-month milestone. Firstly, share your strategy and vision for the company with all employees, not just the senior team. Where possible, draw on employee feedback when you present your strategy back to the business, and put regular follow-up sessions in place, whether monthly or quarterly, to show a longer term commitment to transparency.
Creating an early opportunity to socialise with employees and stakeholders can also be invaluable; it breaks down barriers and sets the tone for a collaborative culture. Another "must do" in the first three months is to look ahead to the next three and beyond – identifying and mapping priorities early on in the year will stand you in good stead.
There’s no denying that getting to grips with a new company – or even industry – is hard work, but taking a focused approach makes the process much more manageable and, ultimately, more enjoyable too.
This article was originally published in November 2013. Matt Regan, now SVP at Novo Nordisk, was UK general manager of pharmaceuticals company AbbVie.
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