New corporate CEO first 100 days plan: drawing the curtain to personal challenges (Examples + Template)
What should a CEO do in their first 100 days? Is there a plan? This is a common question in the coaching room; one new CEO would prefer to search in Google rather than discuss. It's not their shortage of brilliance, vision, or expertise; they're not even lacking a strategic plan. Then what is the question behind their question?
Simona Spilak, MSc 08 June. 2023
In this article, I want to draw the curtain on the rollercoaster you may or will experience as a new CEO on a personal level - also if you're a seasoned manager. Your personality determines how you proceed, plan, and prioritize success. There is nothing like a magic formula that fits us all. Still, I will help you understand the essentials so you can prepare yourself for the good (and challenging) to come in your first 100 days as a new corporate CEO—as per usual, guiding you with my mixed background of corporate management experience, CEO of two businesses, and executive coach to top level management and CEO level.
- Why is the first 100 days important for a CEO?
- What are the key objectives of a CEO during the first 100 days?
- How does personality determine your success as a new CEO beyond the first 100 days?
- Enablers for your first 100 days as a new CEO
- Are you making the right decision to become a CEO?
Why is the first 100 days important for a CEO?
Despite new CEOs undergoing a strict selection process that involves delivering a strategic plan, expectations, and inner doubts skyrocket once the competition ends and they´re appointed in their new role. Why?
During the first 100 days, two significant themes unravel:
- One is the perception of one quarter as the crucial probation period.
- The other closely related is the navigation of external and internal expectations.
The Seduction Game and the myth of the 100 days.
Like dating someone you feel attracted to, you want to be liked (even if they have appointed you for the post), and you want your debut to be a great success (even if you´re just partially clear about how someone will measure your success beyond metrics).
What is the probation period for a new CEO?
New CEOs unconsciously “mistake” their first 100 days with their probation period on the post. Although we all like to have a grand debut, selection committees grant 6 to 12 months for a new CEO to unfold their strategic plan and build a solid foundation.
So yes, you´re being evaluated over a more extended period.
Ensure it is someone other than you who rushes into the rabbit hole of wanting to achieve more than what is possible or wise in a business quarter.
What is expected from a new CEO?
With all eyes on you, your decision-making, and your leadership course, the pressure to surpass performance indicators and do it quickly is enormous in the first 100 days.
How do you know your inner expectations are not sabotaging your strategic plan? Distinguishing external and internal expectations is critical:
- External expectations position your strategic plan as the benchmark against which stakeholders measure you.
- Inner expectations are often unconfessed and run the show in the shadows.
Inner expectations are often related to the wit to overachieve and have a quick impact. These unconfessed goals convey both professional and personal targets, such as:
- The M&A of a company you should have mentioned in your strategic plan
- Increasing your achievement target from 3% to 5%
- Avoiding media exposure
- Playing hard on your media strategy
- Pursuing the board´s respect for your results and personality
What are the key objectives of a CEO during the first 100 days?
Your priority in the first 100 days is getting to know the organization, that is:
- Its challenges
- Its people
The next 200 days will be about designing actions and accomplishing them.
Crucial Milestones for new CEOs in the first 100 days
While getting your strategic plan in place, you should take into consideration these six milestones:
- The Significance of the First 100 Days: The initial 100 days of your CEO's tenure are crucial for setting the direction and vision for the company. It's a time for boldness and clarity.
- Creating an Integrated Narrative: As CEO, you should develop a multifaceted narrative encompassing their strategic ambition, transformation plans, stakeholder management, communications strategy, and talent assessment.
- Rigorous Planning and Trusted Partners: Part of your CEO role is to engage with trusted partners who can stimulate and challenge them during the planning process. These partners can be internal (e.g., HR officers) or external experts.
- Stepping Out of Comfort Zones: As CEO, you can step outside your comfort zones and challenge traditional leadership styles, especially if they come from different backgrounds or industries.
- Reflective Thinking Exercises: Benefit from structured reflection exercises, such as developing a personal strategic narrative, creating a leadership imprint, evaluating top leaders, and preparing a personal action plan. Executive coaching can support you enormously in that!
- Preparation for the Next 1,000 Days: The work done during the first 100 days sets the stage for the next 1,000 days and beyond, and rigorous planning and reflection are essential for long-term success.
This is how you build engagement in the first 100 days
Present a compelling WHY
As a new CEO, you must offer a compelling WHY to mobilize the organization in a specific direction. A clear WHY helps stakeholders embrace your vision and align with what and HOW you want to achieve it.
Lead by example
You can rely on your personality traits to communicate in a motivational, practical, and emphatic way. I encourage you to be accessible and dedicate time to know the organization's challenges and people.
Leading by example, people follow you without being told what to do.
What should I do about my team?
Whether to keep your team or replace everyone is one of the most challenging, high-stakes decisions you'll face as a new CEO. Either way, it showcases your leadership style. The decision depends on:
- The needs of the company in that phase
- Your ability to work on the strategy and the people simultaneously.
Sometimes, a new set of skills is lacking, making it easier to decide on hiring new talent. Others, you will prioritize long-term employees and invest time and money in their development. You must be willing to adapt and be resilient.
Prioritize building a resilient organization
Check the mental health and well-being of the organization because they are part of its resilience. As a new CEO, you should define how things are done, which is intimately linked to the emotional intelligence of your staff.
It's not just WHAT you achieve, but HOW you achieve it
I encourage you to pay equal attention to how you achieve your goals. Your how is determinant to:
- How stakeholders perceive and value your performance
- How you come across in internal communication and external media
- The impact and innovation you bring to the industry
- The position of your company in that industry
- Your long-term fuel for success
How you do things is not an improvisation. Mastering your strengths and benefiting from your personality structure depends on your self-awareness and leadership. Let 's see how.
How does personality determine your success as a new CEO beyond the first 100 days?
Based on experience and cutting through all nuances that make you unique as an individual, there are two types of new CEOs. In my terminology:
- The Individual CEO: Individual CEOs are often high-achievers. Self-motivated, high-paced, ambitious, and creative, they excel at solo performing, out-of-the-box solutions, contaging their enthusiasm, and taking others on board in the initial stages. Elon Musk could fall into this category.
- The Reciprocal CEO: Reciprocal CEOs are often people-prioritizers. Emotionally intelligent, steady-pace, fulfilled by transformation and positive impact, they excel in strategic alliances, connecting dots, and innovation opportunities. We could use Satya Nadella as an example.
In the Process Communication Model (PCM©), they would come across as:
- Thinkes and Promoters, with a more logical and organized structure that makes it easier for them to think on data and translate them into strategic information and benchmarks.
- Harmonizers, focusing on people inclusion, transformation, and engagement, excel in conceptual thinking and creating a shared story that embodies highly talented people and stakeholders.
Both types are equally ambitious and driven by hitting revenue goals, benchmarks, and innovation.
They come from different angles, which speaks volumes about the challenges they will face during their first 100 days as new corporate CEOs.
What are the coaching challenges for each during their first 100 days as CEO?
Individual and Reciprocal CEOs are two very different personality types in the coaching room. As an executive coach, I guide them to succeed by building on their personality, not despite it. Two examples.
Individual CEOs in their first 100 days (and beyond)
- Challenges: Individual CEOs will force themselves to overachieve. They come across as ambitious, performance indicators driven, and workaholics. People often perceive them as “the smarter person in the room”; they secretly doubt themselves. Their challenges are related to precipitation, poor self-reflection, and low engagement. After the “love at first sight” effect, they either attract or repel people. In their multifaceted and fast-paced actions, they lose focus and take others along.
- Actions: Coaching topics include guiding them back to their focus lane. They must persuade themselves that focusing on one thing is a more effective use of energy and time. Then, they need to learn how to do it. That involves adequate physical training to achieve their intimate goal, often around IMPACT. I use coaching questions that help them zoom out and prioritize the action that will move the needle in the shortest time. My coaching questions address the dilemma of multi-focus versus narrowing down to one thing at a time.
- Lasting results: After the initial resistance to being coached, they find intimate conversation away from the public eye a rich space for self-reflection, clarity, and focus. Once they see a clear path, they can use their outstanding energy in a focused and streamlined way. Slowing down allows them to understand changes-- in stakeholders, in a given situation, in the industry or economic environment- and adjust their plan accordingly.
Reciprocal CEOs in their first 100 days (and beyond)
- Challenges: Reciprocal CEOs will spend more time getting to know the details and the people. They will first build relationships and then think of the result. They believe they need that level of detail to conceptualize various business development scenarios and create an inspiring vision. They invest time discussing with people and reflecting and thinking it over, often prolonging their decisions. Their rabbit hole is over-adaptation to the organization, appearing indecisive and “too soft.”
- Actions: Reciprocal CEOs benefit enormously from having allies who are strong in finances and structure. The coaching process involves identifying the right partners to keep them in the frame while they INNOVATE and shift industry mindset and trends. My coaching questions address the dilemma of being understood and respected versus the discomfort of taking action and identifying the data and support needed to dive into the arena.
- Lasting results: Once they reinforce their strategic thinking and understand that delegation helps more than support, they skyrocket in the actions that help business priorities.
Enablers for your first 100 days as a new CEO
When I started my company, I used Daniel Goleman's leadership enablers to conquer challenges and sometimes negative thoughts and impostor syndrome.
How strong are your Emotional Intelligence Competencies?
Awareness of using empathetic listening and social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies is crucial to successful CEOS, especially in their first 100 days.
Daniel Goleman's domains of Emotional Intelligence are the foundation of empathic leadership and coaching leadership. Whether self-awareness and self-management are foundational, it's in the domain of "relationship management" where most leadership shortcomings appear - i.e., skills for inspirational leadership, effective communication, employee development, collaboration, and conflict management.
Are you making the right decision to become a CEO?
As you may know, I´m the founder and CEO of two businesses. Leaving a well-compensated and safe management position in corporate could have paid a toll on my marriage, not to speak of the long working hours of my current schedule.
Most days, I go home with pride, excitement, and joy: an immense inner power of “Yes, we can do that.” But not all days. I support myself on a team in the office and executive coaching to reflect on my challenges as a CEO and course of direction with a clear head.
I walk my talk.
From a humble position, I want to share the learnings I took from my first 100 days as a new CEO and my first seven years.
How can you create work-life balance as a new CEO?
- Inner motivators. Becoming a CEO comes with doubts. In their first 100 days, my clients doubt their move, themselves, and their decision. It's normal and best to sort them out in a private and professional space.
- Connecting the role to the person is crucial. I wanted to end the painful split of characters and be myself as "Simona the CEO" and Simona the spouse. I insist on the power of authenticity in impactful leadership.
- Create a support system. Everybody who succeeded in the CEO role for more than one mandate or two mandates has a support system, regardless of gender.
- Be present with people, whether they are a team or family. Spouses, children, and friends will resent you if you're halfway there at the dinner table or when they need your attention. It's more about the quality of your presence than the time you have available for them.
- Comunícate and agree with your spouse. I'm grateful for the support from D., my spouse. In our case, I'm the CEO, and he runs the show in our private life. There are many things I don't have to pay attention to because he does. We decided to take at least seven days of "workation" per quarter as part of our agreement. After all these years, the expectation of that time together fuels me when things get hard in the office.
Before marrying a new company, be aware of who you´re married to and prepare together. Couples “at the top” require a high level of emotional intelligence. The support you need is often a step away if you inform your partner about your dreams and inner motivations. That could be mutual.
The higher you climb the corporate ladder, the more you need to invest in yourself
When becoming a CEO, your time investment should shift from gaining specific expertise in the field to acquiring and polishing self-mastery.
Whether new to executive coaching or a seasoned coaching leader, new challenges will present you with unique development needs. Working with professionals who are up to the occasion gives you the perspective and the space to self-reflect, prioritize, and either think long-term or narrow down to the strategy, allies and support you need to debut in your new role successfully—the one they hired you for.
Do you think I´m your person? I invite you to reach out and have a conversation. Use this link to check availability.
To your success,
I'm the founder of BOC Institute, one of the renowned consulting agencies for international companies operating in Slovenia and South-East Europe.
I coach CEOs and top managers 1:1 worldwide. I'm here to save you time, energy, and money through your objectives, decision-making, and leadership development. I understand we can change the world one coaching session at a time!
Do you feel like having a call? You can reach out here and let me guide you from there.
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Simona Špilak www.simonaspilak.com