Your First 100 Days as a Leader – A Guide

By: Anja van Beek

The first 100 days in any leadership role is crucial. It is irrelevant if you’re an established leader or appointed in a leadership role for the first time. Your actions and behaviours speak louder than your words. Ensure you make the most of this opportunity to influence, direct and energise your team from the start.

Here are some practical tips that I’ve shared with new leaders in my capacity as an HR executive as part of their onboarding:

1. First impressions die hard and preparation before day one is a necessity. Be clear on the message you want to share with your team, consider your intention and motive behind the message. Remember you have about 7 seconds to make an impact as this is the time it takes for someone to form a mental image of another person.

2. Make building connections your priority and listen a whole lot more than you talk. Good listening means being present, patient and responsive. Do consider how you are showing up in these conversations; don’t judge what you hear or see and concentrate on understanding different views. Make sure your “virtual door” is always open!

3. Be visible and consistent. Let others see your passion and what you care about. The pillars for building trust are competence, care, character. Show your integrity by doing what you said you would do, by when you said you would do it.

4. Establish your credibility but remember trusted leaders don’t mind being vulnerable and admit they don’t have all the answers.

5. Take time to get to know your team members. Identify their strength and growth areas but more importantly their aspirations. Start building a psychological safety net for your team to be innovative and creative. Do that by building mutual respect and creating a mutual benefit for all in every interaction.

6. Take ownership of your relationship with your manager and clarify their expectations. Be level-headed if this differs from your expectations. Establish clear priorities for the key projects and goals in the first 100 days.

7. Embrace a customer value mindset and where relevant ensure you meet with current and potential customers.

8. Allow time for self-reflection, examine what is concerning you and what is encouraging. Look for possibilities to build on the positives and ways to address the concerns in a candid yet respectful way.

9. Aim for small wins, be mindful to not to go too fast and wanting to change everything from the get-go. It is important to build on the trust element first in order for others to buy into your bigger picture. Focus on collaboration and bring others with you, start shaping a win-win culture from the start.

10. Share your vision; effectively communicate how the future might look like. Your team needs to understand where they are going and what their priorities are. Be focused and specific on the results you want to achieve but flexible in the approach how the team achieves this; it allows for the reality of changing conditions and interdependency at play.

In closing, make the most of your opportunity to influence and lead others. Have fun, commit to continuous learning, don’t take yourself too seriously, and remember, we are all human, we make mistakes. Be authentic in celebrating your successes and owning your failures. Most of all “be the leader you wish you had”.

About the author: Anja is a leadership consultant, talent strategist and coach with over 20 years of HR executive experience in the Africa, Middle East, Asia and Australia region. She has lead multi-national teams through transition and change management.

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