The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Deliver Better Results Faster
by George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, and John A. Lawler
The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan is a comprehensive guide for newly appointed leaders, whether they are succeeding an incumbent in an existing position or taking on a newly created role. The book offers an in-depth exploration of the new leader’s journey and presents a practical, detailed roadmap for assuming full leadership in the new role. First-time leaders will find the step-by-step recommendations particularly helpful.
There are two editions of the book listed on Amazon. The most recent is the 5th edition, which includes new material on leveraging diversity and working digitally with a remote team. It also includes four new chapters on special situations: managing a board, leading through mergers and acquisitions, turnarounds, and a 100-hour crisis action plan. Both editions have extensive lists of articles and tools (available for free on the book’s website) that delve deeper into the content.
The authors, George Bradt, Jayme Check, and John Lawler, are partners of PrimeGenesis, an executive onboarding advisory firm.
In the authors’ words: Whether you are joining a new organization from the outside, getting promoted from within, leading a reorganization or restart, or merging teams following an acquisition, The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan will help you take charge, build your team, set direction, and deliver better results faster than anyone thought possible. Designed to be a flexible playbook, [the book is] split into three parts: (1) the book itself, (2) downloadable and editable tools, and (3) more extensive notes and content on www.onboardingtools.com.
This summary reflects my takeaways from a book I found useful and recommend to others. Reading a summary isn’t a substitute for reading the book. There’s much more than I can cover here. Plus, this is my interpretation. If these ideas resonate with you, I encourage you to get a copy from your favorite bookseller. Here are the Amazon links: e-book | Audiobook | Print
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes should be attributed to the book’s authors.
Our fundamental, underlying concept is that onboarding is a crucible of leadership. Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose.
Effective leadership occurs when a team’s behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values, and environment are synchronized to achieve the best results possible. [Your] leadership is about your ability to create a culture in which your team can deliver remarkable results and love doing it.
The Four Main Ideas
Four ideas form the backbone of the book and the 100-Day Plan:
- Get a head start. The time before “Day One” (your official, public start date) is crucial. Get a head start by using the time between accepting the job and Day One (what the book calls the “fuzzy front end”) to get the first draft of your 100-day plan in place and start meeting with critical stakeholders–building key relationships and listening and learning. Also, get the paperwork, tech setup, and other distractions out of the way so that you can entirely focus on Day One. This advanced preparation will provide early momentum, accelerate progress, and build confidence—yours and others.
- Manage the message. New leaders are subject to intense scrutiny. People interpret everything you say and do (or don’t say and don’t do). Rather than letting chance or other people decide, take charge of what and when others see and hear. Start crafting your message and communications plan before Day One—use your best thinking and know that your message and plan will evolve.
- Set direction. Build the team. Your success as a leader depends on the team’s success. During the first 100 days, it’s crucial to establish the foundation for a solid and effective team. Co-creating a “Burning Imperative” (your single most important priority) with your team is a great alignment and team-building tool. Get this focal point in place by Day 30. Get the related milestones clearly in place by Day 45. Identify (and celebrate) early wins by Day 60. And get the right people in the right roles by Day 70.
- Sustain momentum. Deliver results. During the first 100 days, much work is needed to initiate communication, establish team dynamics, and implement core practices. However, this effort will only be worthwhile if you continue to develop your leadership abilities, refine your practices, and nurture your organizational culture to maintain momentum and achieve ongoing success. In other words, maintain momentum for the long term.
These ideas are based on the principles that underpin high-performing teams and organizations: people, plans, and practices aligned around a shared sense of purpose. People are in the right roles with the proper support. Plans have clear strategies and action steps. People are working together systematically and effectively. At the center is a clearly understood, meaningful, and rewarding purpose the team shares.
The 100-Day Action Plan
Building on these four ideas, the first ten chapters of the book frame the 100-Day Action Plan:
Get a head start.
- Position yourself for success. Get the job. Make sure it is right for you. Avoid common landmines.
- Leverage the Fuzzy Front End. The job starts when you accept the offer.
Manage the message.
- Take control of Day One. Make a powerful first impression. Confirm your entry message.
- Evolve the culture. Leverage diversity.
- Manage communication, especially digitally with your remote team.
Set direction and build the team.
- Pivot to strategy. Co-create the Burning Imperative by Day 30.
- Drive operational accountability. Embed milestone management by Day 45.
- Select early wins by Day 60 to deliver within six months.
- Build a high-performing team. Realign, acquire, enable, and mentor by Day 70.
Sustain momentum and deliver results.
- Advance and adjust your leadership practices, team, and culture by Day 100.
Make sure the job is right for you.
Navigating the first 100 days of a new job can feel like walking through a minefield. The mines often work in tandem, and one misstep can trigger a chain reaction, leading to potential failure. However, by remaining vigilant and taking precautionary measures, you can successfully avoid or mitigate the impact of any potential risks.
Avoid these common land mines:
- Organization. Ask tough questions before accepting a leadership role to grasp the organization’s status and future outlook fully.
- Role. Ensure your roles, responsibilities, deliverables, timetable, authority, interactions, and resource access are realistic. Investigate inconsistencies or uncertainties.
- Personal. To avoid personal land mines, assess the job requirements and your fit before accepting a role. Don’t assume past successes guarantee suitability. Ensure any gaps can be developed or are a realistic stretch. Avoid being caught off guard.
- Relationships. Neglecting key stakeholders or communicating poorly can trigger relationship issues affecting success. Conduct a comprehensive 360 assessment and take appropriate action to establish and maintain essential connections.
- Learning. Make a learning plan to master the vital areas of the organization, including customers, collaborators, culture, capabilities, competitors, and conditions.
- Delivery. Results are what matter most. To succeed, your team must be able to deliver. To build a high-performing team, focus on tactical capacity as you approach the 100-day mark.
- Adjustment. Even if you’ve done everything right up to this point, new landmines will be planted unless you see or respond to the expected changes in the organization’s situation or the environment. Planning and running an organization or a program are complex tasks. You must stay constantly aware of your team’s evolving situation, monitor the environment, and make necessary changes. The risk is not recognizing the need for change or not recognizing it soon enough.
Do your due diligence before you accept the job offer.
- In addition to providing critical information for your job decision, due diligence can guide your approach to entering and leading the organization.
- Due diligence is gathering and analyzing information from different sources to identify the risks associated with a decision. Adopting a structured and well-thought-out approach is the best way to do this.
- A 6Cs situation analysis will ensure you develop crucial knowledge about critical aspects of the organization: customers, collaborators, culture, capabilities, competitors, and conditions.
Make the most of the Fuzzy Front End.
A leader’s journey into the new role begins when they apply for the position. That starts the learning process, which proceeds in earnest with the appointment to the role. The time before Day One can be rich with learning, providing time for planning and early relationship building.
Six things to make the most of your Fuzzy Front End:
- Determine your leadership approach, given the situation you face.
- Identify key stakeholders and get started building critical relationships.
- Craft your introductory message.
- Get a head start on your learning.
- Take care of your personal and office setup.
- Plan out your Day One, early weeks, and first 100 days.
Get started before Day One.
Even though it may occur at an inconvenient time–the last few days of your previous job or when you were planning to take a break between jobs–it’s a crucial time to do some planning and early relationship-building that will set you up to hit the ground running on Day One.
Start crafting your message. It may seem counterintuitive, but creating your message before you start the job can be helpful. During the interview and due diligence stages, you should have gained sufficient insight into the organization’s people, priorities, and processes to craft your initial message.
Choose the right day to be Day One. Negotiating a different start date can help create more time. Request a start date that allows for more “Fuzzy Front End” time so that you can better plan and prepare before beginning your official duties.
Take control of Day One.
- Your impact is personal. As a leader, you will affect people’s lives. People will try to figure you out as soon as they can. They may even cast judgment on you.
- Order counts. Be careful about what order you meet people and when you do what throughout Day One and the early days.
- Have a message. Know what you intend to say and not say, and listen to others. Strong opinions, lengthy introductions, and trying to prove yourself are poor Day One tactics. People will form opinions early. Keep that in mind when you listen and share, what to ask, who to ask, and how you answer. When speaking, keep it short, clear, and meaningful.
- Location counts. Plan where you will show up for work on Day One. Do not just go to your designated office.
- Signs and symbols count. Think beyond words when communicating. Everything has a message.
- Timing counts. Your Day One does not have to match the first day you get paid. Set a day that you would like to be Day One and an earlier start date so that your preparation work can begin in earnest.
Building a strong culture is an essential function of leadership. Culture encompasses an organization’s behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values, and environment (BRAVE). Compare your preference to the organization’s culture to ensure a good fit. Culture bonds people and helps them achieve organizational goals.
Culture change is about bridging the gap between the current culture and what’s needed to accomplish the organization’s mission and goals. The more significant the gap, the more complex the change. However, the leader’s job is to identify the most significant gaps and build a plan to bridge them.
Determine your leadership approach.
Determine your leadership approach based on the organizational context and culture.
1. Assess the need for change and determine urgency. Consider the environment, organization history, and recent performance to determine the magnitude and velocity of necessary changes.
- Environment: Refer to the 6Cs business environment analysis from your due diligence. Look for trends in customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors, and conditions.
- History: Understanding the factors that led to an organization’s current state is valuable. Explore its history, including its founders’ intentions, key figures, and cultural evolution. Consider if individuals are protective of the current culture.
- Recent Performance: To understand business performance, analyze factors behind the numbers. Look at trends and positive/negative factors and determine if they’re temporary or long-term challenges.
Compare expectations to the context analysis to determine the necessary pace of change.
2. Guage the culture’s readiness for change. After identifying the need for change, evaluate the organization’s cultural readiness to accept and adapt. People must understand the need for change, be motivated to change and possess the ability to change. Refer back to your culture evaluation from your due diligence, or do one now to assess readiness.
3. Determine your leadership approach. Decide how to engage with the existing culture. Think “ACES” to frame your entry into the culture: assimilate, converge, evolve, or shock.
- Assimilate if no urgent changes are needed, and the team is coordinated. Otherwise, converge and evolve.
- Converge and Evolve slowly. If your research indicates that minor adjustments are necessary to achieve the desired outcome, but the company culture isn’t ready for significant changes, take a gradual approach. Join the organization and introduce the required modifications slowly. A series of well-planned small steps implemented over time can be an effective way to initiate the transition.
- Converge and Evolve quickly if your analysis shows changes are needed, and the culture is open to change. Prompt organization to recognize the need for change.
- Shock to quickly implement significant changes in a resistant culture. The system must be shocked immediately to survive.
For most transitions, it makes sense for the leader to assimilate slowly, converge, and then work to evolve the culture. If drastic changes are needed, then a shock is called for.
To develop your team, consider short and long-term goals. Make immediate changes if necessary, then focus on long-term development.
- Define the structure and roles.
- Define the role requirements.
- Get people into the right roles.
To accelerate short- and long-term team development, think “ADEPT:” Acquire, Develop, Encourage, Plan, and Transition talent.
- Acquire the right talent by identifying prospects, recruiting and selecting for the right roles, attracting them, and onboarding for faster results.
- Develop. Assess the drivers of performance and develop skills and knowledge required for both present and future roles.
- Encourage. Provide clear direction, objectives, measures, support resources, and time required for success. Reinforce desired behaviors with recognition and rewards.
- Plan. Assess people’s performance, potential, and situation over time. Plan for future development, succession, and contingencies.
- Transition individuals into new roles that align with their career and organizational requirements.
Build tactical capacity.
Building the team’s tactical capacity is a critical source of leverage and a vital responsibility of a leader. Tactical capacity is a team’s ability to work under difficult, changing conditions and to translate strategies into tactical actions decisively, rapidly, and effectively. It is the essential bridge between strategy and execution, ensuring that a good strategy doesn’t fail because of bad execution.
Six building blocks underpin a team’s tactical capacity:
- Drive culture and action with ongoing communication.
- Embed a robust Burning Imperative.
- Exploit key milestones to drive team performance.
- Overinvest in early wins to build team confidence.
- Secure the right people in the right roles with the proper support.
- Evolve your leadership, practices, and culture to deliver results continually.
Align the team around a Burning Imperative.
A Burning Imperative is a team’s understanding of what they must do and how it benefits the team and organization. Mission, vision, and values are essential, but a clear, shared call to action plan is crucial. Co-create this with your team to ensure their buy-in. Establish this imperative in your first 30 days.
The components of the Burning Imperative are:
- Headline: A single sentence or tagline that encapsulates your Burning Imperative.
- Mission: The why and what.
- Vision: Your picture of the future.
- Values: Principles and beliefs that are the foundation for attitudes, relationships, and behaviors.
- Objectives: Qualitative performance requirements.
- Goals: Quantitative measures.
- Strategies: How the team will achieve its objectives.
- Plans: The critical initiatives and projects required to achieve each strategy.
- Operating Cadence: The team’s collaborative approach to implementing, tracking, and refining plans.
Together, these components drive the team’s actual plans and actions.
Drive operational accountability.
Implement milestones. Milestones serve as checkpoints to adjust goals and objectives. Establish milestones, regularly track and manage them as a team, and implement a milestone management meeting process.
Deliver early wins. Early successes are critical for credibility, confidence, and momentum. Trust is built by proving you can achieve goals. A few wins can boost confidence and lead to sustained success.
Build and evolve your leadership, practices, and culture to deliver results.
You’ve reached 100 days. You learned quickly by leveraging your Fuzzy Front End, refined your plan, and built solid relationships with key stakeholders. With a clear message, you engaged the culture and made a solid first impression. The co-created Burning Imperative energizes your team. Milestone management drives early wins and accountability. You’ve got your team in place. What’s next is to keep it up! Continue to build and evolve.
Focus on three essential aspects:
- Leadership: Get feedback on your leadership to determine what to keep, stop, and start doing to be more effective with your team and the organization.
- Practices: Next, decide how to adapt your practices to changing conditions. Work on practices related to people, plans, performance tracking, and program management.
- Culture: Finally, after 100 days, you understand the culture better. You also know where you want to take culture. Now is the moment to identify and fill the biggest gaps and establish the culture to sustain the organization’s ongoing success.
Book details and where to buy it:
Get the book on Amazon: e-book | Audiobook | Print (affiliate links*)
Amazon rating: 4.1
Goodreads rating: 4.0
Page count: 272
Publication date: July 13, 2022
Author website: PrimeGenesis
*These are affiliate links. We may receive a small commission from Amazon on your purchase at no additional cost to you.