15 things every CEO needs to do in their first 100 days

You only get one chance to create a first impression as a CEO. The first 100 days of your employment are significant since they establish the tone for your tenure and could have an impact on your leadership effectiveness.

But how do you get off to a good start? We asked Carol Steinberg, President of CIK Consulting, Robert Powell, CEO of Invictus Leadership Group, and Charles Bernard, CEO of Criteria for Success, three seasoned leaders from the CEO Jobs community for their thoughts and counsel. They provided the following 15 advice for CEOs in their first 100 days.

1. Take time beforehand for deep thinking and in-depth research

Spend time thoroughly researching your competitive environment before your formal start date, advises Steinberg. Pay close attention to what your rivals are doing and how they’ve achieved success. Research the upcoming economic trends that can affect your company. And begin planning for the future by exploring how you may use innovations like artificial intelligence or the internet of things to your advantage in the marketplace.

2. Start the job rested

You must arrive at work feeling refreshed in order to handle the rigours of running a business. So before you begin, go on a lengthy vacation. Powell advises travellers to “really go away” for at least a week in order to avoid becoming overworked in their new positions. “I’ve seen it before: Someone who didn’t give themselves enough time to take a break would quickly switch from one job to another. They had no impact.

3. Understand what you’re walking into

Is the company you’re running financially sound or in trouble? If it’s the latter, prepare yourself by having a clear grasp of the problems and a workable plan on how to solve them. If the house is on fire, you’ll need to act quickly to decide what needs to change and what costs need to be reduced, advises Powell. For instance, in your first 100 days, you might need to realign product mix strategies or the entire organisation.

4. Lay out your game plan

Setting a vision and enlisting support from others are your responsibilities as CEO. According to Steinberg, creating this vision throughout your first 100 days can help you maintain focus on the matters that matter most. To avoid becoming side-tracked, going down rabbit holes, chasing tangents, or ignoring the things you should be focusing on, she says it’s crucial to have a clear game plan in place. As a new CEO, whether you’re taking over for someone who retired or was fired, it will also assist you manage the vast range of difficulties you’ll inherit.

5. Prioritize knowledge transfer

According to Bernard, a CEO must provide workers with the context, freedom, and space to share their knowledge with other employees. For your direct reports, you must avoid becoming a bottleneck. Encourage your top salesmen to share their “secret sauce” with their colleagues at leadership team meetings, advises the speaker. Better yet, develop initiatives that naturally include knowledge transfers, like developing a company-wide sales playbook.

6. Communicate your intentions so people don’t speculate

Have a meeting with the entire firm within your first month of employment to discuss your plans for the following one to two quarters. Be honest and open about your plans. If not, you’ll leave people guessing or developing judgments based on unreliable information they’ve heard. Powell says, “Tell the truth like it is.” “CEOs frequently believe that they must put their own spin on events, but this is unnecessary because people frequently already know the reality,” says the author.

7. Listen, listen, listen

CEOs may concentrate on company issues where they may contribute the greatest expertise when they are trying to position themselves as leaders. Steinberg advises to “be a sponge” and resist this impulse. Listen, and let people know that you’re paying attention and that you value their opinions in determining your business strategy, your priorities, and your views. Saying, “I’ve done this before and know exactly what I’m going to do,” is not appropriate.

8. Dig into talent issues instead of delegating them to HR

The COVID-19 situation has highlighted a lot about talent, including its importance, cost, potential harm from toxic individuals, and difficulty in replacing your best staff. For these reasons, a new CEO must actively engage in talent-related matters. Steinberg advises reviewing performance reviews or assessments as a starting point to acquire a strong feel of your talent pool. She forbids the practise of removing members of current teams in order to replace them with your own. This is risky since it gives your other employees the impression that they could be the next. Before attempting to start over, you must recognise your talent.

9. Build a cross-disciplinary sales team

According to Bernard, this group should collaborate across executive leadership, operations, finance, marketing, sales, and operations. Sales are no longer considered a separate activity, according to the new paradigm for CEOs, he claims. “You must create a sales growth team if your priority is business expansion, which I find it impossible that it wouldn’t be.”

10. Get to know your people just as well as your business

It goes without saying that you’ll need to research the operations, procedures, KPIs, trends, and economic factors affecting your business. But it’s also crucial to understand your stakeholders, including your customers, vendors, and shareholders in addition to your staff. Know what people are doing at all levels; go to various locations and facilities; and have open discussions. Don’t only listen to the four individuals who report to you while sitting in your corner office, advises Steinberg. “Really venture outside. People must recognise your seriousness.”

11. Find creative ways to connect with your employees

You’ll need to adopt non-traditional techniques to interact with your staff if you’re the CEO of a company with a remote workforce, as many CEOs are during COVID-19. Steinberg proposes using GrubHub gift cards as employee rewards or booking interactive events like live comedy shows or cookery classes on Zoom. Simply act in a way that conveys, “I understand, I care, I sympathise, and perhaps this will cheer you up today,” advises the author. “When we can’t give folks a pat on the back or shake their hand in the hallway, little gestures like that mean a lot.”

12. Resolve conflicts right away

You must quickly address two sorts of conflict to improve the operation of your business: those brought on by unmet expectations and those brought on by withheld communications. These frequently go together, according to Bernard. It will be necessary to probe deeply at both team meetings and one-on-one conversations in order to identify these disputes. “Avoid asking whether there are any conflicts.” People will respond by saying, “No, I’m all good; no conflicts.” He advises being open to hearing any problems that come your way since it will help you develop trust with your teams.

13. Approach customers with three questions

Don’t put off talking to your customers until there is a problem. Powell advises aggressive outreach to pose these three straightforward inquiries: What should we do first? What ought to stop being done? What should we do going forward? Customers will be your best source, according to Powell, as they can inform you of your product’s quality, delivery schedule, and any suggestions they may have that could provide you a competitive edge. You can improve your customer connections by having this dialogue, and it might even make you aware of potential new strategic partnership prospects, he says.

14. Create a sales playbook

You must create a cross-functional sales playbook, advises Bernard, if all of your company’s sales efforts pass via your vice president of sales. Everything from email templates to value propositions to success stories should be included in this playbook. Encourage everyone to work together on it: For instance, your finance team should provide input on pricing, profitability, remuneration, incentive programmes, management by objectives, and bonuses, and your HR team should provide input on onboarding, skill development, and ramp-up procedures for new personnel. With COVID-19, there are many disparate parts of the organisation today, according to Bernard. “Common agreements, expectations, and processes must be established as a CEO.”

15. Invite employees to ask you anything

Powell suggests holding a certain kind of interactive discussion with all staff members to prepare for a CEO transition: The meeting begins with the new CEO giving a brief introduction to everyone in the company. The CEO then adjourns the meeting so that staff members may formulate a list of inquiries they would like the CEO to address. The questions are recorded by a facilitator, who keeps the employees’ identity confidential. The CEO then enters the room again and provides as sincere a response as she can. A conversation between the people in the room and the new leader naturally develops as a result of this process, according to Powell. “It breaks down the barriers because staff members are free to ask the topics they’re curious about, and it allows for open lines of communication.”