Want to leave your mark as a CEO? This starts in the first 100 days! Yes, it may sound arbitrary – and partly, it is. Still, those first days are crucial for establishing your leadership style, setting the tone for your tenure, and laying a strong foundation for success.
As a new CEO entering an organisation, you may be dealing with a lot of questions. What will my journey look like? What are people’s expectations? What questions should I ask myself (and others)? And ultimately, how can I make the most of this time?
In this blog, we will provide guidance on the essential steps you should take during your first 100 days as a CEO.
First and foremost, congratulations! Whether you are a first-time CEO climbing the ranks, or you are simply moving to a new organisation, you have worked hard to get here.
During this journey, you have undoubtedly interacted with numerous individuals, both within and outside the organisation. Excellent! In the 100 days to come, it is crucial to focus on building and strengthening relationships once again.
Take for example Satya Nadella from Microsoft. He moved up the chain and had been improving his leadership skills at Microsoft for years. During this journey, he was sure to connect to different people from inside and outside the organisation. He set the standard for himself and others, and continued to build on those relationships from the day he entered his new role.
But what if you come from outside the organisation? Well, you’ve probably talked to your executive recruiter, maybe a couple of top leaders, but that’s about it. In this case, it’s even more important to start talking to people and get to know the organisation.
These are the stakeholders you should reach out to:
Note: If you start planning and aligning with people on day 1 of your CEO-ship, you are too late. Time flies and 100 days pass by very rapidly. So ideally, start this process before your official appointment date.
Building a cohesive top team should be one of the first items on your list. As a CEO, you bear responsibility for the organisation, which also includes its top leaders. First of all, you need to create a band of brothers and sisters. This means investing time together, so the team gets to know each other and build trust.
As with any relationship, it’s give and take. How can you help them grow? What are their pitfalls? The challenges of an organisation are often the challenges of the leaders of the organisation. They are the ones working directly with the people. So whether it’s improving processes, coaching, or taking the time to address their issues, make sure they feel supported.
Why is this important? A CEO is only as strong as his/her top leadership team. By the time you are ready to talk to the organisation about your strategic direction, it should already be supported by your top team. And they should share the exact same message or story.
But it is not just the top team you should build relationships with. Your whole organisation is eager to meet you. This is also about perception. Just because you’re appointed as a CEO, doesn’t mean everyone will see you as such. People’s perceptions are formed during the first couple of interactions, even if there is no interaction at all. So if they don’t hear from you in the first 100 days, that’s a missed opportunity.
When it comes to introducing yourself as a CEO, opt for strategies that align with your own personality and values, but also make a lasting impact on the entire company. Let’s explore two approaches:
Physical presence: Typically, new CEOs are literally traveling across the organisation. By physically making the rounds, you’re creating face-to-face interactions and making real connections with a diverse range of employees. From the workfloor to the boardroom.
Online communication: Apart from physical interactions, you can visit various communication platforms where employees are active. This includes online platforms such as the Intranet. Also, you can engage in town hall meetings, team meetings, or team-building sessions. This offers an opportunity to connect with a wider audience and share important insights.
Why not combine both strategies and embrace a hybrid approach? By doing so, you optimise your own time as a CEO, but also ensure that you are truly present where your people are.
While getting acquainted with the organisation’s key stakeholders, you can begin to assess the overall state of the company. More specifically, you should aim to find answers for the following questions during your first 100 days:
In every organisation, there are things that are going well, and things that are not going well. Map out this information. You can even quantify it in a holistic way by using the Six Batteries of Change. This methodology includes six areas that heavily impact the energy of an organisation, such as a clear strategic direction and strong connection with employees.
Culture is often seen as an abstract concept in business. But did you know that you can actually measure it? We like to use the Barrett methodology, where we ask three questions to employees through a short online assessment:
This allows you as a CEO to create cultural awareness & put this awareness into action.
As a new CEO, you might be tempted to toss everything in the trash. But beware not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of doing a 180, it’s often more effective to move the vessel a little to the left and a little to the right. Build on what’s going well and reinforce that. For example, if a desired value persists in one part of the organisation but not in another.
As expected, your first days as a CEO are filled with conversations and gathering information. However, it is crucial that you take the time to pause and reflect as well.
Once you’re the CEO, people will want to talk to you every minute of every day. And from day one, you will never have enough time to do everything you want to do in the way you want to. So make sure to block time in your calendar to process all the conversations you’ve had and the information you’ve gathered.
Also, consider who can act as your sounding board. A sounding board is an individual or group of individuals outside your management team who you can turn to (more than once) to discuss ideas, plans and decisions.
That’s often where we at LQ step in. With an external point of view, we are able to provide feedback, advice, and support. Whether it’s a quick online call after your troubled management meeting, or a three-hour walk in the park. It’s a judgment-free zone!
That’s it! The three most important areas to focus on in your first 100 days as a CEO: building relationships, assessing the current state of the organisation and reflecting on what you’ve learned.
Don’t wait too long. Especially if there is high entropy – meaning that you have a lot of negative energy in your organisation – as this can be harmful for the perception of you as CEO. As ‘consultants in crime’, we step into many organisations where people are not taken accountable for their actions. If that’s the case, why should people do the things that are expected from them in the first place?
It would be expectation management: setting expectations for everybody in the organisation. What do you expect from an employee or a leader in the organisation? For example, you can create a set of non-negotiables for everyone to adhere to.
But also: What can people expect from you? Not only in terms of deliverables, but also in terms of behaviours. Walk the talk, practice what you preach. Whatever you call it, don’t allow any room for confusion about your own commitment to the standards you’ve set.