The Last 100 Days

  1. September 3rd, 2013  | 

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Published in Leadership

Plenty has been written about a leader’s first 100 days.

The concept of looking at a leader’s accomplishments over a 100-day period was introduced by U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.

Although FDR was referring to the 100-day session of the 73rd United States Congress between March 9 and June 17 rather than the first 100 days of his administration, the idea has come to mean gauging the performance of a president during his first term when their power and influence is at its greatest.

The 100-day concept has spread beyond the nation’s chief executive and now is applied to any new leader’s first several weeks in a new position.

Let’s turn that concept on its head and look at your last 100 days of 2013.

Do the Math

Summer’s over. It’s back to school for business.

From September 2 to December 31 there are 119 days left in 2013.

If you subtract Sundays and remove two days for the American holiday of Thanksgiving and remove two more days for Christmas or Hanukah, you’re down to 99 days.

And if you count only weekdays, just 71 days remain in 2013 to get things done.

Any way you look at it, the clock is ticking and you may have less time than you thought to accomplish the things you set out to achieve in January.

Do your colleagues feel your sense of urgency? If they do, how will you focus their time to produce the greatest impact to your organization?

If they don’t, what must you do to get them moving?

Sense of Urgency

When I interviewed senior leaders at The Container Store, Ernst & Young, Herman Miller, Marriott, Nucor, Southwest Airlines and Sony to find out what these successful companies do to create a high-performing company culture, I learned that the leaders of each of these companies bring a very focused, intentional approach to working their plan.

In other words, they have created a sense of urgency in their organization that is driven by purpose and an attitude of acting with immediacy and discipline to drive the results they expect.

How they do this will be examined in my upcoming book, Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture(February 2014, McGraw-Hill).

In the meantime, here’s a resource you can access now along with four proven steps to help you finish 2013 strong and start 2014 with energy and a single-mindedness to improve your organization’s performance.

The 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strategic Planning

The period between Labor Day and Christmas is strategic planning season.

Every year, leaders gather their teams and develop some version of a strategic plan. And every year, most of those plans fail.

I’ve led 165 strategic planning sessions across a range of industries, and my book Lead The Way outlines the process I use to build trust, identify the biggest barriers to high performance and develop a simple but effective plan to increase the odds that your plan will succeed and not fail.

You can join me for a one-hour webinar on Friday, September 13, from noon to 1 p.m. CDT when we’ll examine “The 10 Biggest Mistakes of Strategic Planning” and the steps you can take to avoid them.

Take Charge

Whether you’ve recently moved into a new leadership position or you’re wanting to chart a new course for success, take these four proven steps to drive urgency, accountability and the results you say you want:

  1. Redefine the status quo. If you’ve been in your position for some time, ask yourself What would new management do if they were to come in and replace the existing team? Well, what’s holding you back? Establish a new set of measurable objectives, chart your course and make the changes you know in your gut must be made. You’ve got to declare open season on “business as usual.” Don’t change your principles. Change your practices. At your next staff meeting, ask your direct reports to write down their five biggest frustrations. You’ll see patterns. Pick the biggest obstacle and work to remove it to help your colleagues increase their effectiveness for the home stretch of 2013.
  2. Set clear expectations. It’s your job to establish and communicate your expectations – for your organization, for departments, for individuals and for yourself. It may sound paradoxical, but setting clear expectations provides a sense of freedom for employees because it frees them from making bad choices. Size up your lieutenants and give them all they can handle. You’re not dumping on them so much as sharing the opportunity for learning and growth. Be sure everyone understands the rewards and penalties of acceptable and unacceptable performance. When you are clear about expectations, you improve performance and minimize the emotion that often swirls around issues of accountability in the workplace.
  3. Make performance visible. Your best players want to see how they’re doing and how their performance is helping the organization make progress against its objectives. Make sure you’re measuring the most important things to customers, suppliers, and employees – not just to you. Track, communicate and evaluate organizational and individual performance promptly, and consistently. And while it’s standard practice to track sales, profit, safety and units shipped, consider tracking soft indicators such as speed of decision-making, fun, pride, flexibility, etc. as a way to shine a spotlight on overlooked indicators that can improve your workplace culture. This can also be done by making workplace accessibility with motor-friendly equipment such as an elevator (try Titan Machine) and other accessibility amenities. Make sure all of your employees connect – intellectually, emotionally and financially – to the things you’re measuring.
  4. Honor commitments. Back up promises with tangible evidence. When people perform, reward them. Failure to reward achievement in a consistent manner hurts your credibility. As you hand out rewards for exemplary performance, be sure you’re taking into account the non-monetary methods – there are five broad categories of these – as well as the monetary methods for motivating people. Likewise, employees that can’t step up must be asked to step aside. Failure to weed out under-performers sends the wrong signal to those who have embraced your new challenges, damages your reputation and hinders your ability to drive change. Your people are watching to see if they can count on you.

You’re in the last 100 days of 2013. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 250 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 600 keynotes and workshops on every continent except Antarctica, and he coaches leaders who are inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book— Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) —is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.


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