Perhaps the most crucial time to be focusing on vision is within a manager’s first 100 days. This is when a manager is particularly under the spotlight, and being able to communicate and implement your vision is critical in establishing your place within the organisation and developing a cohesive and effective team.
Recent studies by First100, a leadership consultancy, have shown that upwards of 40% of new leadership appointments struggle to make an impact in the early period. The consequence of this is that many leaders end up leaving, getting fired or not meeting expectations within the first 12 months. The 100th day of your appointment has become the first judgment point of leadership effectiveness within organizations and its importance cannot be overstated: it is a vital time to develop your leadership style, and cement your vision among your peers and team.
What to expect
Expect your first 100 days to be packed with meetings, emails and queries. You will be on a steep learning curve and the time pressure will feel intense. You may feel overwhelmed by putting out spot fires and not being able to focus on your strategic priorities. There may be legacy issues that remain from your predecessor that you will need to address, or challenges associated with inheriting an existing team. Or you may instead be leading a team who were previously your peers. While all of these scenarios are challenging and complex, they are also the norm for a new manager and should not prevent you from beginning to implement your vision.
The first step for a manager wishing to bring their vision to a new workplace within their first 100 days is collecting information. Study up before you begin and make the most of your induction: this will enable you to ask the right questions, observe the new environment more closely and better engage with your colleagues. Intelligent Executive suggests that “being introduced to a new colleague and saying, “Ah Sam, am I right to assume that you will be doing the procurement for XYZ project?” is a far better ice-breaker than asking how long Sam has been with the company.”
Once you have properly begun your knew role, observe and be aware of the existing culture, even if as part of your vision you are aiming to change it. Do not assume that your interpretations or assumptions are correct and be prepared to be corrected or proved wrong.
Finally, identify the criteria against which you will be judged. Understand the key indicators that your boss, other managers and employees measure the success of the organisation by. Use this to your advantage, and cater your vision accordingly.
Get to know the people
Get to know your team. Elizabeth Oliver from the Charter Management Institute suggests the best way to do this is to sit down with each team member individually and ensure that they all understand their individual responsibilities: “emphasise how their role fits within the wider context of the team. For each member of your team, create a personal development plan. By checking in with colleagues regularly, you’ll be taking a clear interest in your team and their career ambitions.”
In addition to your own team, take note of the formal and informal networks that make up any organisation, including the information holders and gate-keepers. Work to build relationships with these individuals. Don’t fall into the trap of spending all your time focusing on your boss – they will often already be invested in your success, and that time and effort will be better spent fostering relationships elsewhere.
And remember, while you are getting to know your new team and colleagues, they are also getting to know you. First impressions count, so present appropriately. Be aware of your personal habits – the Boston Consulting Group suggests that you imagine yourself projected on a huge screen, where “every move you make as a leader will be subject to discussion and interpretation. That includes how early you arrive to work, how you relate to people in the hallway, how you allocate your time and how thoroughly you prepare for meetings.” While this can be an intimidating prospect, use this scrutiny to your advantage – avidly communicate your vision and demonstrate your commitment to it through your actions while you have an audience.