Is the strategy of the First 100 Days an urban legend laced with a heady cocktail of myth and magic or is it the precursor that defines your blueprint, vision and following? For leaders it can be daunting, very much like scaling a mountain, even when this mountain is in the most sought after and idyll setting.
What works and what does not?
I spoke to Magdalena Poradzka, an executive on her First 100 Days.
- What is your role? Could you describe what this entails?
I am an Executive Career Vice-Director. In my role I focus on talent detection and talent management, designing succession planning process for the whole organisation in Poland and ensuring successors’ pool to executive positions, executive development, coaching and mentoring. I mainly design processes and prepare the organisation to use them efficiently through training and coaching HR employees and directors. I am also an internal coach working with managers and executives. My objective is to design the tools and plan employee development in such a way that today actions bring results in 5-10 years.
- When did you start this role?
I started the role 1.5 years ago.
- Could you describe how you felt in the first 100 days?
It was a new role in the organisation so I had to build it myself. I had very mixed feelings at the beginning. On one hand I was very excited and on the other I was afraid of whether I would be able to manage the challenges and I had doubts as to whether I was able to bring added value to the organisation.
- What helped you to flourish during this period?
The biggest help I got was from my dear colleague Jean-Claude, today happily retired and living in Switzerland, to whom I confided that I didn’t feel secure in the new role. He offered me some coaching to help me to build the new role. The first session was a great discovery as I realised I focused on things I knew well and I completely missed the organisation expectations and added value that they were looking for. I didn’t even think about it at the moment. The questions he asked me I was not able to answer but they immediately put my new position into perspective. For example I asked myself:
‘What does the management board need from me?’ ‘What value can and should such a position bring to the organisation?’ ‘What are the critical needs of the organisation in the long-term’ ‘Why did they create the position?’ ‘What is missing is missing in the current organisation? And the answers came more easily than I thought.
The second thing that gave more assurance was that I started to ask HR how they wanted to work with me. They gave me a lot of very useful feedback on what they needed and how they wanted me to work.
- What were your greatest challenges?
Lack of support from the direct manager. He left me to manage the new role myself and I had no guidance on what his expectations were. I was very disappointed. I was expecting to receive the vision and consider how to put it into practice. Then the truth dawned on me that at higher management levels it is your role to build the vision and to sell it.
The business challenge was to work out a shared vision on talents and successors in which everybody believed and change peoples’ decision taking processes so that various executives select candidates and take decisions together. I had a lot of doubts but today the CEOs are my best partners in the process even if it is still not perfect.
- What do you know now that you wished you knew then?
I know that you need to have a clear vision of yourself and your role. You need to be convinced what added value you can bring to the new position but you don’t need to bring it immediately.
- If you were to do the first 100 days again what would you do differently?
I would spend even more time asking stakeholders about their needs and expectations. I would first drive a long-term vision and only then look at short-term actions.
- You have worked with 1000s of individuals and teams in your role, what advice do you have for executives in their first 100 days?
Find yourself a coach. You need someone who will ask you the right questions, listen to you and be your support in the first days. You will find all the answers yourself but having someone at your side is an invaluable support.
This is part 3 of a 3 part series on the First 100 Days of executives.
Sudhana Singh is an executive coach, trainer, educator and blogger based in London. Her niche is coaching executives in the first 100 days of their new roles.
Photograph of the Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa, taken in July 2015.