In your first 100 days as CEO or senior executive, you’re living life in a fishbowl. Fairly or not, every one of your meetings, speeches, actions, or announcements may be viewed as a metaphorical answer to the questions that are going to be on people’s minds. How will you compare to the previous executive? Now that you’re the leader, how is that going to affect me? Regardless of what you’re saying, what are your real intentions regarding the direction of this organization?
In coaching new leaders during their first 100 days in the executive seat, we’ve come across some common traps that detract from setting the right tone at the top. There are often good reasons for these missteps. Leaders want and need results, and they inevitably are focused, driven, and persistent in getting them. Those traits helped get you to the top. However, the same qualities can work against you once you’re in the seat of leadership.
Let’s review five of the traps:
1) Overemphasizing quick decisions and action
One adage that we tell our coaching clients: Slow down to speed up. Take more time upfront to create a vision and a plan for executing it effectively. You’ll achieve better… and, perhaps ironically, faster results.
2) Proving that you’re smarter than everyone on the team
As the senior leader of a substantial organization, you may well be the smartest person in the room. That’s not an inherent problem, but it can become one if you use your first 100 days to try to prove to everyone that this is the case.
3) Not focusing on building relationships with important audiences
Great senior leaders forge strong relationships with all of their key audiences, including the board, the leadership team, key customers and vendors, employees, and so on. Yet many new CEOs underestimate how important it is to book the time needed to have real dialogue with those audiences. Without that level of audience focus, your messages likely won’t connect with these audiences… and you won’t have the support you’ll need to turn a vision or strategy into bottom-line results.
4) Lack of deliberate choices about communications vehicles/styles
All communication vehicles have their role and place. However, leaders often “default” to one vehicle—relying too heavily on email, memos, or even face-to-face meetings. Generally, we find that leaders are most effective when using a blend of vehicles to reinforce an important message or theme.
5) Overlooking the importance of setting and managing expectations
Early on, people may be eager for you to make pronouncements or decisions. You would be wise to create expectations around how and when that will happen. That may well include telling people that you don’t plan to make any major decisions in your first several weeks on the job.