Your First 100 Days as CEO: Making Them CountJan 25, 2024
- By Sophie Pinkoski
First impressions are the cornerstone of your journey as a new CEO. How you use your time in the first 100 days of your tenure shapes the trajectory of the next three to five years for your organization. The pressure to hit the ground running to make a lasting impact right away is real. Yet no one expects you to have all the answers from day one.
It takes work to understand your organization well enough to lay down the foundations for long term success.
Set the direction for your organization by getting to know your team, stakeholders, clients, competitors, and overall market. Once you have a firm grasp on the business environment, you can build a well-informed plan that most effectively reflects your organization’s mission, vision, and values.
These first 100 days will be a balancing act of getting your bearings in a new role while also building a strategy that instills confidence in your leadership abilities. Your stakeholders want to trust that the organization is in capable hands.
Don’t let the pressures of the initial days paralyze you.
It's impossible to have all the information before making decisions, so know when you have enough context to make informed decisions. Remember to prioritize communication with your stakeholders and team within these first months to ensure your intentions are transparent, even while you’re still adjusting.
Starting out as a new CEO is a complex process involving several priorities you must learn to balance. Here are some key elements to prioritize within those crucial first 100 days:
Assess your organization’s current state –– Before you can jump in and exact meaningful change within your organization, ensure you do your due diligence by getting to thoroughly know the organization. Just like you need to be open with your team about your intentions, your team and board should be open with you about the organization’s biggest struggles.
Get a realistic sense of the biggest challenges and opportunities. Understand how the organization lives its mission, vision, and values.
Lead or develop the strategic plan –– Depending on the organization, the board may expect you to keep up momentum on the current strategy or develop a new strategic direction. Whichever situation you find yourself in, dive in and ensure the team is achieving its goals. This may include developing or revising an action plan that sets the tone, pace, direction, and expectations for the organization going forward. The plan and how you lead through it needs to demonstrate where the organization is headed, how to get there, and the time and resources needed to achieve it.
Are operational changes necessary in your first year? Others around you have insight to add to your decision making.
Engage with your stakeholders –– Your external stakeholders such as clients, industry contacts, and suppliers will have their own impressions of your organization and its potential. Gather their perspectives in addition to the internal lens.
Take multiple stakeholders’ perspectives into account when soliciting feedback. You will find they will have a wide range of motivations and priorities that speak to the community your organization serves or the industry it is a part of.
Inquire what they think the organization should start, stop, and continue doing to get the best sense of stakeholder perceptions. You may find external stakeholders reluctant to share their perspectives or brainstorm with you. To maximize this opportunity, consider how to be engaging, and inspiring. Once decided, any new decision introduced should clearly indicate to them how well it will uphold the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Set boundaries to protect your priorities –– In amongst the hecticness of your transition as CEO, protecting your mental health will be equally as crucial as the work itself. Express your boundaries and approach to work as soon as possible to assist your team in adapting to your new leadership. After all, your most valuable resource is your time and energy.
Allocating your time and effort intentionally cements your priorities.
Once you’ve identified your top priorities, be sure to put a professional network in place with individuals who can hold you accountable and be there when challenges arise. Keep on track of the organization's plan by not getting caught up in the minutiae of daily tasks. Look for opportunities to delegate tasks to your team members and split your goals into smaller benchmarks on your timeline to keep your expectations realistic and achievable.
Leading an organization takes an incredible amount of work– put the mechanisms in place early on to ensure you won’t get distracted from what matters most.
As you embark on your journey as a new CEO, recognize that these first 100 days are an unparalleled opportunity to shape the future of your organization. By prioritizing your understanding, strategic direction, effective communication, team building, and personal well-being, you'll not only navigate this critical period successfully, but also set the stage for long-term success. Embrace the challenges, stay true to your vision, and lead with confidence.
A CEO’s First 1,000 Days Begins with the First 100, Boston Consulting Group
Now You’re In Charge: The First 100 Days, Spencer Stuart
The First 100 Days: 5 Ways to Make Your Mark, Korn Ferry
Five Myths of a CEO’s First 100 Days, Harvard Business Review
How to make a strong start as a CEO, McKinsey