These days, an HR director’s achievements in their first 100 days of taking on a new position are routinely seen as an indication of their future leadership potential.
This means that swift delivery on goals and an immediate return on investment are considered more essential than ever.
The first step to becoming a successful leader is to identify your strategic priorities and make sure that you remain focused on executing them. In theory, this sounds quite a simple proposition but, in reality, it can prove to be one of the biggest challenges that new-comers or the newly-promoted will face.
So how do you identify your strategic priorities? Start with the outcome that you’d like to achieve and map out a clear route to get there. Also work out how you intend to arrive at your end point and you will succeed in doing so.
To make this approach easier, you can break it down in three specific ways:
- Envisage your tenure lasting for two years
- Agree your business priorities for the first 12 months
- Write your first 100 days plan.
1. Envisage your tenure lasting for two years
Imagining that your appointment will last for two years, even if you are contracted for longer, is beneficial in ensuring that you maintain progress and achieve your aims as it will give a sense of urgency in which to ‘attack’ core challenges.
Moreover, if you take the view that you can do what you need to do in less than two years, you are more likely to be promoted into your next role more quickly.
2. Agree your business priorities for the first 12 months
While you should understand the key priorities of your new role and its general requirements, now is the time to lay out some specifics. It is likely that, when your employer was “selling” the role to you, it may have brushed over some of the more difficult challenges.
As a result, it is now time to arrange a meeting with relevant stakeholders and agree on your first 12-month priorities.
3. Write your first 100 days plan
The plan should be as detailed as possible, clearly outlining what you want to have achieved by the end of your first 100 days and how exactly you plan to do it.
Treat your new role as a marathon – while you are keen to get it right now, you also need to set the pace for long-term success. Therefore, an achievable and focused first 100 days plan is vital.
Starting a new job can be a chaotic and emotional time and there can be a lot of distractions so putting a detailed plan into action will provide structure and focus. Once you have clearly outlined your key strategic priorities, it will be easier to stay focused on them.
The plan itself should comprise four key elements – the person (you), the role, the organisation and the market. These four elements make up the ‘whole system,’ which is the basis of the plan.
But a first100 days approach is also punctuated by milestone reviews, which are undertaken at regular intervals and are focused on clear goals, with the aim of accelerating performance.
The basic principle is to provide a means of measuring achievement by starting with the outcome and setting markers along the way in order to ensure that there is enough space for self-reflection. Giving yourself this space means that you should be better placed to be responsive to the demands of specific situations.
1. The person
Identify what leadership skills and attributes are required for you to transition effectively into your new role and make your own unique contribution. Establishing how to optimise and capitalise on your strengths is also important.
2. The role
Evaluate where there are any gaps in your knowledge and outline how to fill them, not least by tackling the issues at hand. The objective is to gain a comprehensive understanding of company strategy and any appropriate products and services. Outline your desired gains within a workable timeframe and ensure that they are achieved.
3. The organisation
Learn how to navigate the organisation’s culture. Find out how power and politics operate within it as well as how decisions are made. It is also vital to forge strong early relationships, to inspire your team and ensure that members of it feel more connected to the company mission and vision.
There is no point in having the right strategy and vision in isolation – you need to bring people with you. Get to know your bosses, subordinates and peers, both within your own and other people’s departments.
4. The market
An ability to understand the market and identify what quick-wins you can make is imperative to success because it will help you to make a major impact from early on.
Five additional attributes for success:
- Develop a clear vision
- Appear confident
- Exercise patience and resilience
- Learn quickly
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Employers are starting to realise that, while focusing on individual areas such as leadership development or change management has benefits, creating a unified sense of purpose by adopting a more holistic approach to company culture generates a quicker return on investment.
Moreover, in the middle of a recession at a time in which uncertainty is rife, the smart thing to do is focus on the essentials – speed of delivery and positive results.
This means that the first 100 days for any new HR director present a window of opportunity in which constructive, and even radical, change can be introduced – if they choose to seize the chance with both hands.
Niamh O’Keeffe is founder and managing director of leadership and performance acceleration consultancy, First100.