Avoiding mistakes in your first 100 days

Hilda Goold of business advisory firm First100 details the slip-ups for fresh executives to avoid in order to hit the ground running.

Early success has never been more important for newly appointed business leaders.

With the current global financial crisis, newly appointed business leaders no longer have the luxury of time to ‘settle in’. New leaders will understandably experience a heavy mix of emotions during their first 100 days, but those that demonstrate a high level of performance will give a telling indication of their future leadership potential.

However, the potential for blunders is great at this crucial stage and early mistakes can have a lasting effect. Here are some of the most obvious blunders to avoid.

Consistently referring to ‘how we did things in my old company’

Starting a new role means leaving your comfort zone. For the new appointee who spent years establishing a reputation at their previous organisation, there can be a tendency to refer back to old glories and the old ways of ‘getting things done’. Such overindulgence is a waste of valuable time.

The first step in accelerating performance in the first 100 days is to detach from your previous role and organisation as quickly and cleanly as possible. You must completely detach from your old role, and focus fully on the new one.

Being overwhelmed by task-driven priorities

It is easy to fall into the trap of diving straight into immediate business tasks and issues – just to look busy. But you need to have the strength of character to step back and take a more holistic view. Start with the end in mind by critically assessing what tasks should be continued, what should be stopped and what should be started.

Scheduling too many introductory meetings

It is tempting but inadvisable to hold lots of introductory meetings that will never be followed up. Too many pleasantries can affect focus and establishing a set of strategic priorities and remaining focused on them is key.

Making decisions just for the sake of being decisive

Panic can push any new leader into making hasty decisions and it’s easy to fall into the trap of making decisions just for the sake of it. However, this only temporarily masks a lack of direction and it is more important to focus on a businesses core issues. Preserving a clear link between goal, action and outcome will help to avoid a scatter-shot approach.

Avoiding sacking someone in the hope they’ll work out

The reluctance to fire or reshuffle members of an inherited team is a critical mistake. Failure to make tough personnel decisions is damaging, none more so during the first 100 days than at any other time. It is vital to critically assess the quality of your team. You must be able to spot the person who is not a net contributor, i.e. the person who is consuming more than they are contributing. Always address their problems openly and constructively. However, if this doesn’t work letting them go may be the only real solution. You have to give your inherited team a chance, but early performance acceleration is not possible unless you have the right people in place.

Avoid playing the political game

A poor understanding of the culture of the organisation you are joining can lead to any number of unpredicted gaffes. Have the emotional and social intelligence to gather information of the expectations and approach of stakeholders, and you will accelerate your effectiveness. It is imperative to build strong relationships and allegiances early on.

Favouring your function

The transition from a functional position to a leadership position requires you to expand your focus. Many in new leadership positions often start by ‘favouring their function’ e.g. those stepping up from a sales role can be tempted to ‘sell’ their way to success, or the marketers can be tempted to ‘market’ their way to success. You must have the ability to remove the functional blinkers and to look at the bigger picture in order to be successful.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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