(This article reflects the personal views of the author)
Some time ago, I got a call from a fine professional and friend who was just appointed as the CEO of a large enterprise. Even as I congratulated him, he posed a question he was grappling with: What should I be focusing on in the first 100 days?
indeed is a query that applies to all key leadership transitions, especially
the CEO incumbent. The initial breaking-in period will significantly impact how
successful the leader would be, since ambiguity multiplies exponentially,
higher the position of transition. What brought you till here may be
insufficient to take you where you intend to go. Here are a few thoughts that
you could convert into action.
Plan your on-boarding
The first thing that would strike a new incumbent is that there may not be a formal on-boarding plan, especially given that you are the CEO. To begin with, you have to get down to crafting your own plan. Ensure you have a great executive assistant, as this person would be your window to the world and a shield where necessary. Make your own control button list of key metrics, arising out of the thoughts shared below, to prepare a daily must-do monitor for your first 100 days. Expand the list as you gain deeper insights with every experience within.
The buck doesn't stop with you
Ironic as it seems, even as the CEO, you are not the boss! You indeed have a board to report to. Gaining the confidence of the board, knowing where you stand, and being clear on the delineation of roles and responsibilities between the board and the management are essential dynamics for decision-making. You are lonely at the top; develop your own advisory network to provide guidance and support. Friendly independent directors and CEOs, who you know well, can be ideal choices for your sounding board.
First impressions last
Every move you make is a message to the world around you, as you have moved from derived power to direct power.
Your words, mannerisms, values, style, actions and expectations all are under scrutiny. The team would be trying to anticipate your likes and dislikes, which could heighten or distort reality if you are not cognizant. Do recognise the need to be open and transparent; communicate your vision, beliefs and expectations and reflect them in the consistency of your conversations and actions. You have to clearly define the way forward and help drive a shared vision to enable overall commitment.
Do the balancing act
It is likely that even as you have been vested with the coveted position, there may have been other contenders, quite capable. You are their leader now, and gaining their commitment and not just compliance would be important. Take the initiative, gain their confidence, express your support and carry them along. Resist the temptation to spend much of your time in your former zone of comfort, as you now head all functions, not just one. Find a balanced approach to learn the other functions and interconnections quickly. Revenue-generating functions of course need urgent attention. Know all your stakeholders too and provide for time to address all the constituents.
Be the change
Engage, engage, and engage. Plan to visit all critical locations early, prioritize the list, and reach out. Use your presence to identify and champion some key initiatives which will augur well to reinforce the road map you are laying out. It is imperative to meet your key customers early for you to get a personal feel of the space you serve. Being amidst customers is an affirmation of continuity of organizational commitment and serves an assurance that you value them as vital partners of your enterprise.
Get in sync with your team
Even as the CEO, you are only as good as the team you have. Know the strength of the pyramid that you sit on, and quickly so. Map your stars in the company by examining the five-year performance track of all managers. Prepare your high-performer list and meet as many as you can with a well-planned engagement calendar. Listen to them, share your thoughts, set your expectations and declare your desire to co-create the future. Your single biggest asset needs to be nurtured by you, and your people focus will pay dividends.
Success is the summation of many small victories. A journey begun well augurs well, and as William Blake eloquently observed, we must endeavor: "to see a world in a grain of sand, a heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour." Hope you have an enriching tenure ahead.
Originally published in the Economic Times, dated 24th April, 2012, the Economic Times Bureau.
About the Author:
The writer is a partner and global leader of the people and organisation practice of Ernst & Young