Welcome to Management: Your First 100 Days

“During his first 100 days in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt “sent 15 messages to Congress, guided 15 major laws to enactment, delivered 10 speeches, held press conferences and cabinet meetings twice a week, conducted talks with foreign heads of state, sponsored an international conference, made all the major decisions in domestic and foreign policy and never displayed fright or panic and rarely even bad temper.”

– Arthur M. Schlessinger Jr, “The Age of Roosevelt: The Coming of the New Deal”

Maybe your schedule won’t be as busy as FDR’s, but there is no doubt that people will carefully watch how you establish yourself and the type of leader you will be. For that reason, it is very important for you to have a plan on how you will approach those first 100 days on the job (There’s nothing magical about 100 days, it has just become a benchmark for how people assess the success of a new CEO).

Think through how you want to spend your first 100 days.

The night before you begin your job, think about what you want to accomplish in your new position. How do you want to be remembered after you leave? What words do you want people to use when they describe your tenure? Do you want to be remembered as a taskmaster or a people person? Do you want to be seen an easygoing leader or a tough CEO?

You Are On Stage

I knew a CEO who was told that on his first day, there would be an all- staff meeting. He walked in to discover that, in addition to the packed room, his image was being projected on large screens throughout the building and in other remote offices. He said later that it felt like the camera had been following him all week. As a CEO, your every move, statement, and even your jokes will likely be scrutinized. People will notice if you interrupt others in meetings, glance at your watch, or divert your attention to your smart phone. This is why it is important to set the right example and demonstrate your desire to be a colleague and leader from day one.

In the middle of a 1992 presidential debate with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, the cameras caught President George H. W. Bush checking his wristwatch. It was interpreted as the President becoming bored by an audience member’s question about how the recession impacted him personally. That anecdote dominated much of the news coverage for days. You don’t want something as small as a time-check to be what your new colleagues talk about after they meet you.

Get To Know Your Team

Your first day on the job will be a blur. It will be important to develop a rapport with all employees. This probably starts with an all-staff meeting. People will want to get to know the real person that sits in front of them. They will have seen your bio, but share some of the things you want to accomplish and how you will go about doing it. Let them see the excitement you have for the job.

Be positive.
First impressions matter.
Make sure that you listen more than talk.
Set aside one-on-one time with your direct reports. Meet with your board’s leadership or appointing body.

You will set an important tone to these conversations by taking good notes. It will demonstrate that you are sincerely interested in what people are saying to you, but those notes will be important for you to refer to as future issues arise. Every conversation is research for you.

Over the course of your first week, schedule as many meetings as you can with your staff and board member/administrators. Ask them a bit about their background. Ask about the thing they are most proud of and what keeps them up at night. Let them dream a bit, and have them share a thought or two about the most important thing the organization needs to address and accomplish.

It is important to remember that not everyone you will talk to will be excited about your new appointment. They may have favored another candidate. They may have been a candidate! On the first day of assuming my new leadership position, I met with the head of our fundraising department who told me, in no uncertain terms, that she was disappointed that I had been chosen. She had been hired by the previous manager and said that she only wanted to work for him. I listened to her carefully and expressed my desire to work with her and not against her. I promised her that I would work hard to be her partner. Of course, I was concerned that she had already made up her mind about me. She left for another job shortly afterward. You can’t turn everyone around.

This post is excerpted from my book, ‘The Public Radio Manager’s Handbook”.  While it was written primarily to help individuals seeking management jobs in public media, it is full of information that will help anyone become an effective manager.  Check it out HERE.

And if you do work in public radio or TV, this book is a “must-have.”  Purchase it HERE.

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