7
Mar

The First 100 Days: Setting the Tone for Success

By Evan Klein

The First 100 Days

The first 100 days in a new leadership role brings both excitement and pressure. What will you accomplish in the first few months? Do you have a plan in place to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your employees, and the company? How do customers truly feel about your products and services?

Your actions and decision making criteria in those early days are enormously telling – not just for you, but for employees, investors, media, and customers.

Of course, stepping into a new role brings many challenges. Take for example Jay Fulcher, newly appointed CEO of Zenefits. His first major decision was laying off 45% of the company’s workforce: “This isn’t how any CEO would choose to spend his first week on the job, but I strongly believe these difficult decisions are essential in setting Zenefits up for success.”

Bottom line: the first 100 days set you up for the next 100, and the next 1,000, and so on. If you’re not making decisions based on data and facts then you risk being unprepared to optimize your success.

Making Smart Leadership Decisions Early On

Any new leader wants to accelerate success in their inaugural days. To do so, you must learn as much as you can about the company, the competition, the industry, and what issues your company is facing – both internally and externally.

As one expert instructs, “Spend your first 100 days getting to know your company and getting to know your people by asking questions and listening before making big decisions. This will…form the basis of your credibility as you move the company forward.”

The Boston Consulting Group backs up this assertion. Polling a group of 20 top CEOs, BCG asked what they’ve learned in their experience working those first critical months.

The top answer—“Diagnose first, decide second.” To accomplish this, the CEOs recommend a number of steps the executive should take, and among them were these three key strategies:

1. Talk with customers to get an outside-in view
2. Open the feedback loop by asking employees what could be better
3. Identify hidden threats and opportunities, and prioritize accordingly

The next question is, what is the best way to secure the information you need to validate your conclusions about the state of the organization, its people, and customers?

You could tap into internal resources or comb through your successor’s notes but candidly, you need unvarnished insights to make decisions you can trust. That’s why engaging with a customer and employee experience consultant like Satrix Solutions can be a huge asset as you begin the first 100 days in your new leadership role.

Arm Yourself with Actionable Data and Reliable Insights

It’s important to find a partner that will balance supporting your needs to succeed in those early days while objectively analyzing the health of employees, prospective customers, existing customers, and lost customers. Our recommendation is that you work with a consulting firm to execute a variety of formal feedback programs to get a big-picture view, allowing you to see:

⦁ What customers really think about your products and services and how they would like to see you improve.

⦁ How employees truly feel about working for your company, the culture, the effectiveness of their managers, and how everything impacts the quality of their work.

What obstacles your front-line personnel face when servicing customers, as well as what they believe customers need and whether or not those needs are being met.

⦁ How the company is perceived in the marketplace and whether your value proposition resonates with customers and prospects.

⦁ Why the company wins or loses when competing for new business and why customers defect.

By engaging with employees and customers during your first 100 days, you’re accomplishing two very important tasks at the same time.

First, of course, is the valuable insight you gain on the state and perception of the company. But secondly, and just as important, you communicate to employees and customers that you’re willing to listen to what they have to say and take it into consideration as you put together your action plan.

However, we can’t stress enough that feedback programs should never be just a one-time deliverable. One lone survey at the beginning of your tenure won’t take you very far or inspire much confidence over time.

Bypass Initial Learning Curve with Formal Feedback Programs

Our clients have found long-term success by building out voice of customer and employee engagement programs that revolve around the regular collection and analysis of feedback from customers and employees.

The leaders of these companies rely on our expertise to distill responses into useful, actionable material you can use to gut-check the decisions you’re making and make regular adjustments as needed, well beyond the first 100 days. And our clients have been successful because they appreciate how vital it is to ensure customers and employees keep feeling that value and appreciation from you long after that initial touch.

The hard truth is that 40% of executives fail within the first 18 months. Other research shows that 82% of new leaders fail because they don’t build partnerships with subordinates and peers.

Sydney Finkelstein, author of Why Smart Executives Fail, concluded that failure is most often the result of seven bad habits of CEOs. Can you guess #3? They think they are the only ones who have all the right answers.

With Satrix Solutions’ support, you can avoid this counterproductive mindset by engaging regularly with the people who have just as much an investment in the company’s success as you do, if not more—your people and your customers.

You have plenty on your mind and a lot of work to do. Let us take one thing off your plate while still delivering one of the most valuable pieces of insight you can glean in your first 100 days.

We look forward to working with you through the next 100, too.