The Chief Executive’s First 100 Days

The Chief Executives First 100 Days is aimed at first-time CEOs as well as those with more experience who might be moving to a new role. It provides a roadmap to navigate the countdown stage to starting a new CEO role, the first 100 days in post and beyond.

Why the first 100 days?

The timeframe of the first 100 days has great practical and symbolic significance for new leaders. In earlier research (Ash, 2006), 60% of CEOs responding to a questionnaire said that with hindsight, the first 100 days had been a ‘highly’ or ‘very’ important period. Your first 100 days are the start of the period when you are learning about your organisation and when the organisation is learning about you.

The first 100 days of the new charity CEO is broken down into 3 stages:

  • The countdown stage: The time before taking up the role – after you have been offered the post – but before you officially start work.
  • The encounter stage: Your first 100 days
  • The adjustment stage: your next 100 days and beyond – perhaps to the end of your second year as CEO.

The countdown stage

Your early period in post is a ‘honeymoon’ period when there is a high tolerance of change; therefore, it follows that the faster you can understand your new organisation, the more opportunity you will have to take advantage of this critical period. The amount of time you have to prepare for the role will vary; it may be months or only days, during which there will be pressures to complete work in your current role. But whatever time you have, aim to use it in a way which makes the most of the opportunity of this valuable period.

Key steps to assist you during the countdown stage:

  1. Prepare yourself for new challenges: Identify skills gaps. What areas do you need to work on to fulfil this role?
  2. Promote yourself emotionally and mentally-out of your former role-into your new role
  3. Learn more about the organisation: the board, its mission, values, strategy, finance,stakeholders, structures etc.: The more you know the better prepared you will be
  4. Continue diagnosing/analysing the organisation, formulate or refine your initial hypotheses: What is your view of the stage the organisation is at currently?
  5. Prepare a ‘view’ or story – and plan for Day One

The encounter stage

Your initial diagnosis of the organisation, begun during the countdown stage, will either be confirmed or re-cast when you probe more deeply into the organisation and you experience the reality of the role. It is not uncommon for newly appointed CEOs, when starting the role, to uncover a different ‘reality’ to the impression presented by the Trustees during the selection process. This is not to suggest that there has been any deliberate deception; it is more likely that the Board is not fully apprised of the true position whether through a lack of available information or a failure to probe sufficiently deeply.

Key steps to assist you during the encounter stage:

  1. Listen & learn from as many sources as possible: Staff, board, stakeholders
  2. Continue the diagnostic phase: Develop your diagnosis for where the organisation is at
  3. Build or deepen relationships: with staff, board, stakeholders
  4. Create a climate for change: A new CEO can often be a lever for change and change can be hard for some to take. Take the chance to build the right climate for this.
  5. Build your support and maintain development: You will need support in this new role think about where you can source this from, coaching or mentoring may be useful.

The adjustment stage

The next 100 days and beyond is likely to be the period when you start to implement some of the ideas and plans formulated during your first 100 days taking advantage of the tolerant climate towards change. In the next phase of your work, your focus may change. At the start of your appointment, as a result of your initial diagnoses, you might have had to focus on the internal environment. With time, this may move to the external environment as organisational capacity grows. This is not to say that you will take your eye off internal issues, but you will have monitoring and performance management systems in place (regular and booked one to one meetings with direct reports supporting the formal appraisal review process) so that you know what is going on but are less actively involved.

This article was taken from the ACEVO publication ‘ The Chief Executive’s first 100 days: a Roadmap for success’ by Fiona Ash. The full publication can be purchased here. For more information about how ACEVO can support your personal development or leadership skills please contact Jenny BerryDirector of Leadership and ACEVO North.

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