July 28, 2015

New leader, executive, Chief or Council? The first 100 days are critical

leadership_wordsChange is inevitable. Anything from your financial picture, to election terms, to executive management – there will be a need to manage that change. With that change often comes new leadership. It’s essential to orient new leadership efficiently in order to row the organizational canoe in the right direction.

In order to have a successful transition, you need to have a plan. Remember, a plan isn’t a plan unless it has goals and objectives, it is measurable and it is written down.

The plan for a new leader or a new Council is called the “100-day Plan”. This plan is necessary for any newly elected Band Council, newly appointed Board of Directors, a newly elected Chief, a newly hired appointee, executive, or manager. It focuses on the goals and objectives of the first 100 days in office. Right from the first day – to the evaluation and next steps on day 101.

First and foremost, the 100-day Plan is the new leader’s plan. It will need to be developed by the new leader and have his/her fingerprints all over it. After all, it can be a challenging time for that individual to become accustomed to a new organization, integrating a new leadership style, and make the organization their own. It’s also a challenging time for his/her colleagues to become accustomed to a new leader and their leadership style.

When it comes to decision-making and putting your stamp on the organization, focus on little steps at the beginning. When possible, make everyone a winner and contributor. To lead is to inspire. This is all about managing positive change.

The First Day – Is all about meeting people, introductions and learning. Learning all about your day-to-day surroundings. How to get in and out of the building, where their office is, where they can find a box of paperclips, how to access their email, etc. You will have to have things like keys, computers/IT, e-mail, Human Resource forms, direct deposit forms and group benefits packages ready prior to his/her arrival. Keep this day fairly fluid, open and free flowing. Introductions are just that: names, job titles, key responsibilities, where they sit in the office, and who they report to. Avoid long meetings or briefings on this day, as it tends to be overwhelming. This is a time for listening and learning. Ask questions. Keep it light and friendly. No need to set a tone or define your leadership style immediately, as this may turn employees or colleagues off.

The First Week – During this time you will be holding your first formal meetings with senior management and your direct reports (those who work for you directly). Here you will begin to learning and appreciating the finer details of your organization’s mandate and goals. You’ll begin to understand who is responsible and accountable and how those goals are being achieved. Take lots of notes and ask lots of questions. You will also arrange briefings on pertinent initiatives and issues that are facing your organization. Ensure there is a balance of pro-active initiatives and re-active issues. You are not just a problem solver but and builder and an enabler for the entire organization.

Your First Council Meeting – Within the first two weeks, plan your first Band Council, executive and organizational meeting. If your organization is on a set meeting schedule, stick to that schedule. Work backwards from that meeting date and ensure you have a conversation with each Councillor or Director individually. Share your goals and listen to their feedback. Understand their goals as well. As for the first official meeting, plan something special like a traditional ceremony, signing of the organization’s oath of office, or a more formal introductory session open for the public and the media. Work to make your colleagues feel good about themselves and you as their new leader.

Learn, Learn & Learn – Meet, brief, study, learn, repeat. Meet, brief, study, learn, repeat. Before you meet your first external stakeholder, shareholder, community member, government official, municipal leader – learn about everything you need to know. Get into the habit of getting a pre-meeting brief. Ask your management or staff to prepare a simple briefing note with key messages. Talk to your communications people. If you don’t have communications people, get communications people.

Set the Table – The first 100-days are critical to the planning and carrying out your leadership agenda. You will need to spend time with your senior management, as well as your Council or Board, planning out those things you will need to achieve during your term of office. Not everything can be done in the first 100-days, or even in the first year. Some objectives may take months, years or even multiple terms to achieve. Plan and evaluate within practical, achievable and realistic timeframes. Get the right advice.

Inspire Change – Within the first 100 days you will begin to mold the organization into your own creation. However, that’s not done in a heavy-handed way that disregards the good work of your predecessors. It’s done by inspiring change. You will demonstrate, through your confidence and approach, that you are bringing the organization with you. Make changes that are practical and necessary that will improved the status quo. More significant and challenging changes, such as restructuring, require a well-developed restructuring plan including human resource plan and a communication plan.

Evaluating your first 100 days – Like every good plan, the 100-day plan will required success measures and evaluation criteria. Work through the evaluation with your senior management. Present your evaluation to your Council and Board of Directors. Your first evaluation will give you an idea of what you need to work on with the organization, what worked well, and what didn’t work well. It will help you develop a strategic action plan of deliverables for the first year, or the length of your appointment.

Good luck.

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