In the recently published Career Guide, brought to you by Barden and Chartered Accountants Ireland, author and executive advisor Niamh O’Keeffe shares her top seven tips to help you make a solid first impression in a new role or company.
The ‘first 100 days’ is a very helpful device for defining the beginning phase of your new role. It carves out three to four months as a period of transition, which is useful for giving yourself a chance to land in, listen and learn. It is also the time to set out your strategy and make a positive first impression with your new team, boss, and key stakeholders.
Whether you are new to the role or new to the company, your first 100 days is a new leadership beginning and an opportunity to establish yourself and set the tone for how you plan to lead during the rest of your role tenure. So don’t just arrive and get busy with the day-to-day detail. Instead, think more strategically about what you want to achieve and, with that in mind, set out your key priorities for the first 100 days and stick to them.
1. Think big and start with the end in mind
Set an ambitious role vision for what you want to achieve within three to five years. How will this role matter to your career? What will success look like? What kind of leadership legacy do you want to leave behind? Think about what truly matters to you as a business leader and what you could do in this role to make a difference to your team, organisation, industry, and the world. Your vision is about long-term thinking; it provides context and helps you prioritise what you need to achieve in the next 12 months and, subsequently, the actions to focus on in your first 100 days.
2. Stay focused on your strategic priorities
A new role in a new company can feel overwhelming, but don’t just get busy doing the doing. Jumping on the day-to-day treadmill of firefighting is too short-term in approach. With your long-term leadership vision in mind, set out your key strategic priorities for the first 12 months and then align a plan of key desired outcomes to be achieved by the end of your first 100 days. Setting out your key priorities early on and regularly monitoring progress makes you less likely to get derailed by less important day-to-day activities and less important tasks.
3. Don’t invite the in-laws to stay!
Your first 100 days of transition to a new role or new company is not business as usual. No matter how experienced you are, stepping up into a new role is still a heightened stress event. You need to be fit-for-purpose, and you will need to manage your energy levels accordingly for the challenges and intensity of the new learning curve. Adrenalin will compensate for any lack of reserves but don’t exacerbate the pressure on you by having the house redecorated or the in-laws over for a visit. Instead, keep a cool, clear head and maintain a calm personal life to support your work efforts.
4. Don’t be a hero, it’s not all about you!
On arrival, remember that you are a new leader, or member, of a team. You are not an individual operator, nor superman, nor a lone expert genius. Building or contributing to a high-performing team will be critical to your overall success. Take time in your first 100 days to bond with your colleagues and figure out how to work well together. Be straightforward, friendly, optimistic. Ask for help when you need it. And if you are new to this company, don’t annoy people by constantly talking about how great your last company was!
5. Pay attention to culture, power, and politics
In any new culture, always try to figure out who and what matters. Consider how decision-making works. Don’t make assumptions or be naïve enough to simply take things at face value. Get advice from seasoned colleagues at the company to better understand how the company’s culture works, both above and below the surface. For example, what people say versus what they really mean. Learn to read and decode the organisation’s clues to understand the politics of the new organisation so that you can participate more productively.
6. Be your own best PR agent
Don’t expect your work to speak for you. You need to bring people with you on the journey of your first 100 days and communicate your successes to stakeholders along the way. When the first 100 days is complete, share a record of your main achievements. You could make a formal ‘End of First 100 Days’ presentation to your boss or other key stakeholders. Think of it like showcasing the return on investment on the cost of hiring you and brief people on what is yet to come.
7. Ask for feedback, not reassurance
After a month or so, seek formal feedback on your performance. If your boss, peers, and key stakeholders say, “You’re doing great, just keep going”, it may feel encouraging – but please realise that this is not actually feedback. Push for a more constructive response. You will need to know if you are making any unwitting cultural gaffes. You need feedback sooner rather than later on anything that may prevent you from making the right impact or building more productive relationships.
As this is a new experience, you inevitably won’t get everything right. That’s okay too. Do your best, learn lessons, and move forward. I wish you every success on your leadership journey.
Niamh O’Keeffe is the author of Your First 100 Days: How to Make Maximum Impact in your New Role. Niamh also advises corporate CEOs and senior leaders in London and New York.
You can read this article and others in Career Guide 2021/2022.