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A chief executive's first 100 days

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Tips for new chief executives to help them manage their new role.

More has been written about leadership than any other aspect of human behaviour in the past 30 years but most of it is not time specific. It also doesn’t address the particular needs of a newly appointed chief executive in a non profit organisation.

An article in Harvard Business Review suggested that whereas there are courses and programmes for every management speciality, there is “no school for chief executives except the school of experience”.  A newly appointed chief executive has to learn on the job, in full view of every stakeholder.

So where do you go if you are a newly appointed chief executive when you have just been offered your first or a new chief executive role?  

A guide based on research undertaken by the Centre for Charity Effectiveness, published by ACEVO, offers a three-stage roadmap for the newly appointed chief executive in those crucial days. This is a roadmap for your first 100 days

Before taking up the role of chief executive

The countdown or anticipatory stage: when you have been appointed to the role - but before you take up the post.

Five steps to help you prepare:

1. Prepare yourself for new challenges; identify skills gaps – in which areas of the role will you need to develop new skills and knowledge?

2. Promote yourself emotionally and mentally - out of your former role - and into your new role.

3. Start learning about the organisation you are about to join -  mission, values, the board, current strategic direction, financial position, the organisation’s structure, its stakeholders, etc.

4. Start to develop some initial ideas about the organisation based on your initial research.

5. Prepare for your first day including preparing a 'view' of your role and some initial phrases about yourself and how you feel about joining the organisation.

Your first 100 days as chief executive

The encounter stage when you take up the role – from day one. 

In this phase you will be discovering the lie of the land, signalling that you are reviewing the organisation and assessing what might need to be done.   

Five steps to help you during your first 100 days in the role:

1. Listen and learn from as many sources as possible – both inside and outside the organisation.

2. Continue the diagnostic phase begun before you took up the role, deepen your knowledge and start to test out your initial ideas.

3. Build or deepen relationships within and outside the organisation.

4. Create a climate for change.

5. Build your support and development and maintain a sense of balance, taking time to reflect on your performance.

Your next 100 days as chief executive and beyond…

The adjustment stage is the period when you are likely to start implementing some of the ideas and plans formulated during your first 100 days.

The guide recommends:

  • reflecting on your performance over the past 100 days
  • keeping in mind the legacy that you want to leave behind when you eventually move on
  • continuing to learn – about your organisation, your role - and from your mistakes

……and of course celebrating success!

Further information

Have your say

What did you learn from your time as a young CEO? Do you have any advice you could pass on to other who are just entering the role?

Share your experience and ask questions on the Role of the leader forum.

Page last edited Jun 26, 2017
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