Strategies for your new leadership role – and why a 90 day plan might not be it

You’re about to start your new leadership role and the expectations are high. You need to make an impact quickly. But the reality is that executive level transitions take time. The stakes are high, so what’s most important? 

If you’re feeling pressured by the 100-day or 90 day plan concept, you are not alone. Whilst these types of plans can be useful in building momentum, in practice most new leaders take far longer than 90 days to get up to speed (92% for external hires and 72% of internals). And at CEO level, on average it can take anywhere between 9 and 14 months to develop a strategic vision and and build the right team to deliver it. 

So how do you balance the need to get it right, with the desire to make an impact quickly? Here’s some things to keep in mind.  

Think about the signal you want to send from day one. Be clear on what you value, not just what you want to deliver. For example: What do you stand for? What’s most important to you? What do you believe in? This will give your new team an insight into what to expect and also a guide as to what’s expected. 

Focus on learning. Many transition or leadership induction plans (particularly those for external moves) tend to centre on learning about the team and the organisation. But don’t overlook the value of talking to those outside the organisation too – for example stakeholders and customers. Whether you’re engaging with insiders or those outside, now is a time to exercise your questioning and listening technique. Keep it simple. Have 3 or 4 key questions you want to ask and ask the same of each person. Those around may be keen to please, so pay attention to what’s not being said, as much as about what people are sharing with you. Then get curious and delve deeper. 

Identify what really matters. As you hit the ground, it’s likely you’ll have multiple challenges and demands of you. It can quickly get overwhelming and complicated. You have limited time to get fully operational, so it’s important to keep a focus on what matters. Keep your eyes on the immediate as well as the longer term. Reflect often and be open to adapting your plan as you learn and reflect on action that you’ve taken. 

Once you’re clear on your priorities, keep them visible. Not just in your head, but physically. Use a sticky note on your PC perhaps or write them on a desk notepad. Look at them before you start your day, and ask yourself, what will I do today to move me closer to achieving them? Or at a more granular level, does my presence at this meeting directly contribute to the achievement of my vision? This will keep you focussed on what really needs your time. Build this into your end of day reflection too – what did I do today to help move closer to success? If the answer isn’t clear for too many days in a row, look at how you’re spending your time.

Make your plans based on what you’re learning and in the areas that will have the most impact. Research by McKinsey suggests that there are five areas that leadership transitions should focus learning and acting on: business, culture, team, yourself and other stakeholders.

Learn for you. New leadership challenges bring the opportunity for learning about ourselves as well as the organisation. Reflection time is often scarce, but it doesn’t need to take long. At the end of every day, think about these three questions: What went well today? What didn’t? What will I do differently tomorrow?

Get feedback from those around you. It will help you understand the impact you’re making and hone it as you go on. Find a way to ask for feedback regularly and lightly, for example at the end of 121’s, to help you learn and focus your energy where it really matters.

The first few months will be exciting, yet challenging, that’s the truth. So when your confidence shakes, reflect and then act. Remember where you’ve come from, your strengths and what matters the most to you. Reflect on what you’re learning. And then do something. Confidence is the outcome of the thoughts that we have and the actions we take. So taking a small step forward, and taking action, will help shift your mind and get you back on track. 

Receive Rebecca's newsletter

Subscribe to receive practical tips and ideas to help you be an even more successful leader in your business.

Interested in working with Rebecca

Contact Rebecca using the form below, or email directly to talk about working together.