Embarking on a new leadership role is inevitably met with mixed emotions. The excitement of starting something fresh is tempered with the knowledge that you will need to invest considerable amounts of your time in those critical first few weeks establishing new relations and responding to what can sometimes feel like a series of unnecessary distractions.
In addition to your new role’s immediate priorities, you will need to consider the impact your new role may have on shaping your leadership legacy. Nervous mistakes, cultural gaffes and blind spots need to be minimised if you are to build your reputation and personal brand as a leader.
While the average CEO tenure in Australia currently stands at five and a half years, there are conflicting views as to how well leaders actually prepare themselves (and their teams) to tackle many of the underlying challenges and systemic issues that come with inheriting a new leadership role. Added to this, we are often reminded of the need for leaders to move quickly in order to reshape the culture of the organisation while ensuring it remains relevant within an increasingly volatile and uncertain landscape.
One only needs to reflect on the flow-on effects of the recent findings of the Financial Services Banking Royal Commission. The impact of poor leadership, toxic workplace cultures, and large-scale maladministration has led to a huge groundswell of stakeholders demanding change. The short-term result has been turnover within executive and board level leadership.
The golden opportunity
As I reflect on my own experience working with newly appointed leaders across the public and private sector, I’m struck by how few put plans in place to take full advantage of the opportunity to reset business priorities, reshape the strategic direction and renew the focus of the organisation’s people, resources and brand. Being appointed to a new position provides a unique opportunity to reset, reassess, and if necessary, re-allocate priorities and resources.
New leaders should also consider placing a high priority on employee and stakeholder engagement.
Reshaping the culture of an organisation can also be critically important to a new leader’s success, as it can improve effectiveness and cooperation within teams, and help galvanise the troops to react quickly to volatile and uncertain situations.
Examining strategic goals and priorities using different stakeholder lenses, and considering impacts at both macro and micro scales, and over various timeframes, can help leaders to better balance priorities, deliver genuine change, and achieve an enduring legacy.
“Challenges that can often feel insurmountable to the uninitiated”
In recent leadership research conducted by Deloitte, we examined the key factors contributing to leadership effectiveness. The research found that a leader’s ability to plan and mobilise their team within the first 100 days of their tenure is a key indicator of the leader’s overall future effectiveness in the role.
From my experience, newly appointed leaders should focus their first 100 days on being highly visible, pragmatically optimistic, action orientated, and willing to listen. Successful leaders tend to focus on three key priority areas – people, strategy and values.
Here are some items to consider when deciding how you map out your game-plan for your first 100 days in a new senior appointment:
Leadership Team: assess the team you have inherited and make any necessary changes quickly. A balanced team should include individuals with corporate memory, as well as trusted outsiders to help reshape the culture to fit your vision. It is important to align leadership capabilities to future needs, rather than just considering current priorities
Aspirational vision: communicate your vision for the future early and often. Your vision needs to remain simple. Ensure it has emotional resonance and is framed in a way that enhances esprit de corps.
Roll up your sleeves: connecting and engaging with key frontline employees will provide a first-hand perspective on what might need to change, and why.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: connect with key customers and stakeholders to gauge their sentiment and clarify what needs to change, and why.
What does it feel like to work here: spend time getting to know what it feels like to be a team member within the organisation. Understanding the habits, routines, and behaviours is key to understanding the culture.
Stop, Start & Continue: move quickly to determine whether there are particular business practices, rituals or routines that are likely to get in the way of sustainable transformation. Once again, staff and customers will have a perspective on these priorities.
Value and benefits: spend time learning how the organisation leverages its core talents and capabilities in the market to create value and deliver benefits for its customers. Insights gathered will help determine future short, medium and longer-term measures of success.
Organisational Scaffolding: become familiar with how effectively the organisation is actually running from a financial, risk and talent management perspective.
Below the Surface: identify market threats and opportunities that may exist below the surface. These should be considered from a global, national and local perspective.
Relationships are everything: spend time developing and maintaining a strong relationship with the Board, Shareholders, and key stakeholders that will affect future success.
2013; Assuming Leadership, the first 100 days, Boston Consulting
2018, Financial Services Banking Royal Commission, Commonwealth of Australia
2018, Developing leaders to Achieve the Unexpected, Deloitte C