Before Day One

Whether you’re new to the organization or not, there’s nothing magical about Day One of your first 100 in an executive position. More than anything it’s a day for listening, welcoming, and being visible and social.

But the days leading up to Day One are critical to a strong start.

Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to strategize with clients as they’ve taken on greater responsibility and title before they’ve officially begun the new role. The most successful of them make certain moves that give them great momentum into their first 100 days.

They learn about the present, from the inside-out.
Beyond any preparation done for the recruiting process, new executives take time before Day One to examine the biggest challenges the team and organization is facing.

They do it by asking a few new colleagues to share their points of view, privately. They test their own assumptions with those colleagues. They assess their gut reaction to the colleagues’ response and input (it’s a great way to evaluate the strength of each person as a potential partner).

They also work with their HR partner to learn about key people on the new team: talents, foibles, experiences, and growth potential.

They create simple dossiers that help them remember what they’re learning and give them a head start on building relationships with team members.

They spend time visualizing potential futures.
Many executives we’ve worked with draw strength from a few trusted advisors and coaches, and bring them together for planning sessions before Day One. Together, they write descriptions of what ultimate success would look like six months, one year, two years from Day One.

Then they make the first few steps concrete: They map out activities for the first 100 days, aligning their milestones with any company milestones that might coincide. They describe what they’ll have accomplished by Day 101, and know how they’ll measure it.

They draft early purpose statements for their team, and sketch potential organizational structures to deliver on those purposes—keeping them in their back pocket to review as they dig into the role. They decide how collaborative they want to be in shaping the direction of the team.

And all along, they use their advisors to challenge their ambitions: Where have they been too bold? Not bold enough? What about their vision and strategy should they declare, versus build collaboratively with the team? Where haven’t they played to their own strengths? What curveballs might come at them?

They take time to take care.
Any transition requires atypical stamina and focus, and can be quite stressful. Successful executives recognize that they need to mentally and physically prepare for the road ahead. They make sure to schedule a break between their previous and new job—and spend that time in a way that honors the transition they’re making.

A short vacation, spending time in quiet thought, or challenging themselves with exercise or other physical activity can all help mark the shift they’re making and put them in the right state of mind to start fresh.

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