The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan

In their book, The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results, George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check and Jorge E. Pedraza discuss leadership transitions and on-boarding.

Executive Summary

  • High performance teams and organizations are built of people, plans, and practices aligned around a shared purpose
  • Tactical capacity bridges the gap between strategy and execution, ensuring that a good strategy doesn’t fail because of bad execution
  • Five building blocks underpin a team’s tactical capacity
    • Communication campaign
    • Burning imperative
    • Milestones
    • Early wins
    • Adept people in right roles

Position Yourself for a New Leadership Role or Promotion

  • Sell before you buy
    • You cannot turn down a job offer you have not received (get the job offer)
      • At this stage, your questions are not about helping you decide if you want the job. They are about helping them decide to offer it to you
      • In the interview, make your points fully, but succinctly, and then shut up and listen
      • Secure the offer first
    • There are only three fundamental interview questions
      • Can you do the job?
      • Will you love the job?
      • Can I tolerate working for you?
    • There are only three fundamental interview answers
      • My strengths are a match for this job
      • My motivations are a match for this job
      • I am a good fit with this organization
    • Think of the interview process as a chance for you to show your ability to solve the organization’s and interviewer’s problems
    • The winning candidate is often the one who, acting as a management consultant, helps the decision makers and team members get a better sense of what the problems, or needs, really are, and then conveys confidence that under the candidate’s supervision the right things would get done.
    • Great candidates
      • Foster enthusiasm in the people who are interviewing
      • Enjoy the interview process and come across as if they really enjoy talking about work, management styles, the opportunities at hand, and other related topics
    • First, you sell to get an offer. Then you negotiate to get the right offer. Then you do a thorough due diligence to decide whether you should accept
    • You must negotiate a win-win package factoring in all the different forms of short-, mid-, and long-term compensation, benefits, termination rights, and the like. It is equally important to negotiate the details of the roles as well as responsibilities, expectations, and authority
  • Map and Avoid the Most Common Land Mines
    • Organization
      • Beware if the organization lacks a clear, concise, differentiating and winning strategy
      • You do not want to get on a ship that has already sunk. You may thrive on the risk of a turn-around. But, only if you know that you are going in as a turnaround expert that needs to make significant changes fast
    • Role alignment
      • Ensure alignment around your role and responsibilities, deliverables, authority, interactions, and access to essential resources
    • Personal
      • Gaps in your skills and abilities
    • Relationship
      • When the executive fails to identify, establish or maintain key relationships up, across, or down
    • Learning
      • Truly, learning is essential. Being perceived as wanting to learn is almost as important as learning itself. You have heard it before: Seek first to understand; don’t come in with the answers; wisdom begins in wonder.
    • Delivery
      • The biggest land mine after 100 days is failing to build a high performance team fast enough to deliver the desired results
    • Adjustment
      • Things change and you need to change when they do
  • Do your due diligence on the organization, role, and fit
    • Knowing who is not onboard with your new role is often as important as knowing who is onboard
    • Is there a lack of resources or a lack of alignment on your role and responsibilities?
  • Act differently when you are promoted from within
    • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Sun-Tzu
    • If the burning imperative is not in place or not really shared, you have to do that first

Embrace the Fuzzy Front End and Make It Work for You Before You Start

  • A new leader’s role begins as soon as that person is an acknowledged candidate for the job
  • But you must have a “going-in” point of view if you are going to lead. Your message is the keystone of your communication.
  • If the people you talk to on Day One feel valued, the people you talk to before Day One will feel even more valued
  • You are a different person before you start. You are not yet an employee or boss. You are just someone looking to make a connection and learn. The answers you get during the fuzzy front end almost always prove to be exceedingly valuable after Day One
  • Meet With Critical Stakeholder Before You Start!!!
  • The key between the acceptance and their first day on the job is to jump start key relationships.
  • Focus on learning
    • Evaluate their perception of the situation and their strengths
      • Ask for examples that might reinforce the answers. These examples will provide further depth to your understanding and will also enable you to quickly switch the “we” in your stories from being about your old company to being about your new company.
    • Ask, listen, but don’t offer your opinions yet
  • Decide how to Engage the New Culture
    • Culture means the way we do things here
    • Beware of rejection of the organ by the body
  • Drive action with an Ongoing Communication Campaign
    • Work out and communicate the burning imperative
    • This will be the overriding message to anchor the campaign
    • Great leaders live their message as Martin Luther did at the Diet of Worms in 1521, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other.’
    • Live the story – your followers won’t believe what you say only what you do
    • Seed your message with a growing group of stakeholders before you start
      • Have a going-in “mantra”
    • Have other eyes and ears throughout the organization who can give you an “on the street” read of the situation

Take Control of Day One

  • We remember first and last not necessarily the middle
  • Order counts
  • Have a message with a bias toward listening
  • Example: a leader met with all his direct reports one on one to get their perspective on the customers and then used that information to craft a burning imperative around a customer centric vision
  • What Not to Do
    • Say nothing (good or bad) about your former company
    • Don’t say anything negative about anybody in the new company
    • Don’t use a PowerPoint to introduce yourself
    • Don’t tell too much information about your personal life

Embed a Strong Burning Imperative by Day 30

  • The burning imperative drives everything everyone does every day. More than any single other factor, this is what distinguishes highly successful teams from teams that flounder and fail
  • Create opportunities beyond the current horizon
  • Get the consensus for the burning imperative. You need to have your team be able to tell you the burning imperative off the top of their head

Exploit Key Milestones to Drive Team Performance by Day 45

  • Show me how they are paid and I’ll tell you what they really do
  • “I used to believe that if it doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get done. Now I say if it doesn’t get measured it doesn’t get approved… you need to manage by facts, not gut feel.” John Michael Loh, USAF
  • Milestones are checkpoints along the way to achieving objectives and goals
  • You will know that your milestone process is working when people are surfacing areas they “might miss” if they don’t get help from others.
  • Milestone management process: each team member gives a five minute update in the following format
    • Most important wins
    • Most important learnings
    • Areas where he/she needs help.

Overinvest in Early Wins to Build Team Confidence by Day 60

  • Early wins give the leaders credibility and provide the team confidence and momentum – three very good things
  • Early wins do not have to be big wins
  • Usually found by accelerating something that is already in progress instead of starting something new

Secure ADEPT People in the Right Roles with the Right Support by Day 70

  • Team members of a culture or organization that is beginning to evolve will watch and wait to see if there are any consequences for not evolving with the new culture
  • Make people move faster than you have been used to doing
  • “People do better when they capitalize on their own, individual strengths – talent, knowledge, skills.” (Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton)
  • You have to do what is right for the organization and what is right for the individuals. You have to find a way to get the right people in the right roles at the right time. You have to do it early and decisively.
  • Make people moves by the end of week 10 – Day 70
  • The number one thing high performers want is for management to act on low performers so that the whole group can do better.
  • Evaluate people’s strengths, motivations and fits with assessment tools if necessary
  • Choosing to act on people who are in the wrong roles now or will soon be in the wrong roles is generally not the most enjoyable part of leadership. But it is in an essential part.

Evolve People, Plans, and Practices to Capitalize on Changing Circumstances

  • “Things turn out the best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” John Wooden
  • Remember, the fittest adapt best.

Critical Tools for Long Term Leadership Success

  • Leadership Skills
    • Listen first: Good leaders are good connectors. They listen and read situations effectively
    • Talk in order to listen and connect better. Use a “Socratic” process
      • “Okay, let me see if I hear correctly what you are saying.”
    • Insight: Better than sheer work is insight. Leadership is often granted to those who show real insight.
    • Humor: A common failing among leaders or potential leaders is a lack of self-deprecating humor
    • Conflict: A key sign of a leader is someone who can help the group handle its conflicts better.
    • Inspiration: Family, humanity and personal connections inspire people
    • Communication: People who help frame the facts are the most effective in communicating.
  • Strategy
    • Have a mission – leave no question as to the “higher good” or the “ultimate focus” of the organization.
    • Strategy is about the creation and allocation of resources to the right place in the right way at the right time over time. By corollary, there is a wrong place, a wrong way, and a wrong time.
    • In strategy, be simple and focused: Where are we going to play? How are we going to win?
      • “Strategy is choosing what not to do.” Michael Porter
  • People Development
    • Strength is a combination of talent, skills, and knowledge
    • Helping people get even stronger in areas of strength is more productive than trying to fix their gaps.
    • Frederick Herzberg’s 1959 work is still applicable. In general, people are positively motivated by things like the type of work they are doing, challenge and achievement, promotion prospects, responsibility, and recognition or esteem. Things like salary, relationship with colleagues, working conditions, and their supervisor’s style are ‘hygiene’ factors that don’t motivate, but can quickly demotivate if there is a problem.
      • It is not about motivating people. It is about enabling people to succeed so they can tap into their own inner motivations.
    • Since everything is constantly changing, transitioning people to new roles is often a big part of inspiring and enabling them to do their absolute best.
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About David Shedd

David has eleven years of experience as President of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, retail and services companies, having led 20 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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