Knock Out Your First 100 Days as a People Leader

September 20, 2022

Are you nailing your first 100 days as a new people leader?

The first time leading a team is both exciting and nerve wracking. And rightfully so. You’ve done the work to finally take on the sacred role of leadership. You’ve shown your expertise in leading yourself and your performance, and now it’s time to show you can work through others to achieve business results.

At the same time, you’ve never done this before. People are unpredictable. You have to communicate, inspire, and motivate in new ways. Earning the respect of your team and your peers is critical in this new role. And you become acutely aware of the emotional side of transformation.

To feel a mix of emotions is totally normal. It’s a GOOD thing! It reveals that you care for the team and organization you’re leading. And you want to do it well and with integrity.

So how do you set up a solid foundation to lead well within the first 100 days? Here are some ways that will get you focused on the right things.

Start before you take the job.

Take time to be thoughtful about understanding the new role. What strengths are you bringing to the table? What are some of your blind spots? If possible, do some research on the company and the landscape of the team. Come in with as much knowledge as possible along with some prepared questions. But avoid making assumptions.

Begin well-rested.

If you can, take a vacation before your first day. Make sure to focus on sleeping well, eating well, getting in some movement and doing things that bring you joy. Leading people brings on new demands that will test you. Ground yourself as much as possible with what’s most important so that you orient the job around those things instead of the other way around. You’ll be a better guide for your team and offer more compassion.

Establish credibility and build relationships through learning.

Here you can kill three birds with one stone! You’re going to be taking in A LOT of information. Resist the temptation to jump to judgement. Replace that temptation by asking EVERYONE more questions. Your team, your boss, your boss’s boss, your collaborative partners, internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, customers, etc. You get the point. By asking more questions, you’re not only learning, but you’re building relationships and showing a genuine interest in understanding the information you need to be successful. You’re also building credibility by investing your time into listening to others.

Match your plan to your team’s situation.

Now that you have the info, match your plan to the situation of the team. For example, is your team or business in start-up mode? Do they require realignment? Are you trying to sustain success or does your team need a complete turnaround? All of these situations will require a different approach and perhaps a different structure altogether. 

Grab onto those early wins.

With all the work you’ve done, you will no doubt be able to identify early wins. Work with your team to tackle the wins that have the most impact on business priorities and behavioral changes. This will continue to build your credibility while energizing your team.

Agree to what success looks like on a 360 level.

Collaborate with your team and your new boss to define what success looks like. It’s critical in these early days to be completely aligned on the goals your team is tackling and the metrics you’ll use to measure completion and success. When everyone is on the same page, it makes it easier to negotiate resources and set boundaries. 

Evaluate and build your team.

The situation of your organization will define how you build or initiate changes to your team. For example, if you’re in a start-up mode, you may need to bring in new people with a unique set of expertise and skills. If you’re sustaining success, you may need to evaluate incentives and metrics and align them to your vision. A turnaround situation may require you to evaluate your talent to determine who needs to be promoted, who you need to retain and develop, and who you may need to move laterally. These changes don’t necessarily need to be made within the first 100 days, but you will certainly be able to layout a plan for the steps you’ll take with your people.

Communicate your vision, communicate it some more, and then communicate it some more.

A strong vision will keep a team focused. It will help them move in alignment. And it will provide them with a “why” that will keep them motivated to reach their goals. Take every opportunity to talk about your team’s vision and tie it to everyday decisions and tasks as much as you possibly can. And don’t just communicate it to your team. Communicate it widely. To the people who lead YOU and to the key stakeholders you work with. Doing so will clarify to others what your focus is, and it will allow you to set boundaries for what you can take on. 

The next two things are arguably the most important things you can do to set the foundation for yourself as a first time people leader. They are also arguably things you should do before and beyond the first 100 days in your new role. 

Lead yourself well.

Become intimately familiar with your self-care needs. Incorporate time to rest throughout the day and week. Give yourself time before and after each meeting to reflect or document what actions you need to take. Gain clarity on how your behavior changes when you’re stressed out. What are the indicators you’re taking too much on and how do you correct them? Find a mentor inside or outside of your organization. Bring them your challenges and talk through how to tackle them. Learn from their mistakes and from their successes. 

Build a leadership culture within your team.

The best results are achieved when you trust your team and empower them to make big decisions and solve problems in their own unique ways. Resist the temptation to tell them how to do something and instead, coach them by asking deep questions. This will help them clarify their process and think about the scenarios that may result from the approach they choose to take. Clear roadblocks and be an advocate for their success. Share leadership resources and books that accelerate their growth. Help them thrive professionally and personally and dedicate TIME to understand their career trajectory. All of these things will help you bring out the best in your team… which really, is the ultimate goal of any people leader. 

Working with a coach may be right for you if you’re entering your first 100 days as new people leader. We specialize in helping leaders navigate the challenges of leading a team. Interested in learning more? Click the button below to schedule a discovery call!

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