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First 100 Days: A Practitioners Approach

It is clear from my previous post that there are a relatively consistent set of actions that leaders have followed when transitioning into new roles and while they might not all be used in every situation, they can provide us with a template for taking on a new role.

Look, Listen, Learn: Talking to the management team was the primary source of information for all new leaders – listening to what people had to say and trying not to jump to any conclusions – iteration, synthesis and ‘triangulating the view’, i.e. continually presenting back and confirming what you’ve heard.

New leaders also ‘read themselves into a role’ reviewing plans, accounts, budgets, forecasts, in fact any available literature – also need to confirm the veracity of this information. Sometimes, the greatest learning comes from finding that certain reports are not available, or up to date.

Accelerate your learning: Identification of effective advisors was the primary mechanism by which new leaders gained understanding of their new environment ( new markets, products, technologies, systems, structures as well as culture and politics ).  Advisors were both internal and external.  Internally it was not only the management team but also by going down a level or two to find out ‘what is really going on?’ and finding people who were key influencers in their area – this normally equated to people who were trusted by others.  Externally, briefings and meetings with customers and suppliers to get their view of the world – also in some cases with direct competitors.

Create Early Wins: The importance of early wins also emerged.  Changes can be small, cultural in nature, or even simple commitments – so long as results are tangible and can be achieved relatively easily.  However, they should be part of a plan, not reckless in any way and not simply ‘change for change sake’.  It was also important to ensure that these early wins do not close down any paths or become ‘regret moves’ and generally are not necessarily suited for high priorities.

Quickly Build Relationships with ‘the boss’: Building this relationship was seen as critical and most individuals actively tried to build a rapport with their new boss and also tried to create ‘an alignment of expectations’ – it is just as important to enable others to develop a relationship with you.

Get the Right Team in Place: Many new leaders are faced with inherited management teams or unionised workplaces with little choice over personnel.  In these cases the importance of understanding what you have inherited is paramount – it is vital to review the work histories of key players and understand what the ‘sacred cows’ are within the organisation. Regardless of limiting factors, most respondents felt it was important to get their desired structure in place as soon as feasible, and often new structure and roles were used as a mechanism to circumvent difficulties in relation to personnel changes or ‘trying to leverage internal experience and at the same time strengthen with external expertise’.

Get Communication Right: Transitional leaders were also very quick to get effective communication structures in place – many saw themselves in a state of constant communication ( verbal and non verbal ) and used every opportunity ‘to sell their message’.

Develop your Vision: All respondents also had a very clear ‘vision’ of where they wanted to take the organisation and in many cases created mental images of what they desired the future shape to be and communicated this vision to others, so that they could understand what part they would play in it.

Sharpen your Saw: Not surprisingly, many respondents actively worked on their leadership styles through a variety of approaches including executive coaching, extensive reading, feedback both from staff and superiors, and by selectively mimicking the behaviour of people they believe to be effective. Or, as one respondent put it, ‘shamelessly plagiarise any good idea’.

Transitional Leadership – The Practitioners’ Approach

So what about your own idea’s and experiences? do you agree with the steps above or are there others that you think would be beneficial to share?

Note: While this post can be read standalone, it is the fourth part of a ‘Transitional Theme’ and Part III can be found here.

Senior Manager with Pinnacle Project Partners and over the last 15 years have worked as a Project / Programme Manager, primarily within the Financial Services Sector here in Ireland, but also with clients in the UK, Holland, the US and New Zealand. I have worked on a number of significant large scale projects – ranging from process improvement & automation initiatives, to more traditional solution design & implementation projects. PMP™ certified and holder of a MBA (First Class Honours) from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. Looking for outlet to share idea's / thoughts - particularly in the leadership space – and continue learning!

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  • Good one Kelvin! Even though all the points you mentioned atr important, I would say that “getting the right team in place” and “Quickly Build Relationships with ‘the boss”. It’s a bit disappointing to hear the latter. In the ideal world, there should be so many other crucial steps before “Quickly building relationships with ‘the boss”. In my experience and from what I’ve heard in my network, having the boss on your side means career opportunities, flexibility but most importantly, support… meaning that he might not pull the plug on whatever project you’re leading!

  • Hi Kelvin, I’m really enjoying the series. Two points you made really resonate with me are:

    “going down a level or two to find out ‘what is really going on?’ I remember doing a big project for a telco a few years back and insisting that I spend some time at the cold-face with the customer teams, the senior management were suspicious, but the insights I gained really helped me to be effective.

    “Create Early Wins” This in another key point, these changes/wins also communicate effectively that you will be a caring/listening boss which is a paramount if you intend to later implement more painful/bigger changes.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Fred, but not too sure if I’d describe it as ‘disappointing’ – more of a reality !! It was interesting that everyone saw themselves as having a boss, be it CEO, Chairman of the Board, Sponsor, majority Shareholders etc.. and also the fact that building this relationship was seen as critical. In fact, not developing this relationship sooner emerged as the most common regret amongst those interviewed.

  • Anonymous

    Cheers Niall,

  • Great report F and well done on the interview 🙂

  • That is a fantastic report Facundo!!
    With visual effects an’ all!!
    I am lucky for the moment that most of my potential clients for Smart Solution (my OTHER company) will be checking me out from a PC or Laptop, so hopefully will get another 12 months or so before I have to be concerned with mobile orientated web.

    With regard to your comment above:
    “Here in Ireland, we’ve got the friendliness, the can do attitude, the talent, we just need a bit of speed and to take a plunge again”
    Firstly I am pleased to note the “we” in that sentence but I thought it was coke we needed more of, since we lost so much of it off the south west coast in 2007 😉

  • Ha! You probably have more than 12 months 🙂 Yes, I am pleased with that “we” too 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Great post Facundo! Fred better rush back before you steal his limelight!

  • Stolen already, I’m now rehearsing his voice-tone, after that, he’s terminated!

  • Passion and a great story – sound words of advice. Thanks for sharing this Facundo.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the report Facundo. I was really hoping to be there yesterday, but I just had too much to clear off my desk before I go on holidays. Your post has given me an excellent overview.

  • Great synopsis Facundo from another excellent conference from the IIA. I was one of the presenters of the Breakout sessions – Get ready for the international opportunity. We had full houses and interest. There’s still plenty of enthusiasn and positivity around.

  • Thanks Una! There has to be positivity enough with the blues 🙂

  • Thanks Frank, hope you are not reading this reply but enjoying the hols!

  • Thanks, no probs Barney. Next time I’ll be more convincing and get people to talk more to the camera…ha!

  • :). It was a great post – the sound bite was perfect.

  • Margaret Mara

    It’s all about attitude and mindset. When we focus on what we CAN do, it makes all the difference. important that people hear positive remarks every day. Nice upbeat blog Facundo!

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