100 Day Leadership Refresh

By Les Wallace, PhD

Yes, even leaders can get complacent. We begin to rely on how well we’re doing and lose some urgency and energy. It’s not purposeful; it’s a constant challenge of our human nature. Throw in “change fatigue” from constant movement in our organizations and frustration with leadership relationships and anyone can get lethargic and begin to just go through the motions. We believe that leaders, overall, tend to maintain a higher sense of awareness and level of energy because they are more alert to the importance of good leadership and they thrive on the challenges of business. How do the best leaders maintain their sense of leadership focus? Here’s a one hundred day plan that is not uncommon as a means of keeping on track.

Month One:

Take two weeks to assess your leadership.

Take a good look at how you’re spending your time, how you believe you can tinker with or re-calibrate your leadership investments, and what you might need to stretch to learn or do better in the next quarter. Be candid, write it down. Discuss this with your coach or mentor and your immediate manager.

If you have one, take out your personal leadership/values statement and review it. Are you continuing to live by it? Does it need to be modified or enhanced?

Possibly do a 360-leadership survey of your team if you haven’t done one in over a year or, just ask your manager and your team how they think you are doing. Asking for honest feedback demonstrates your desire to always be improving your leadership skills.

Spend some time looking back over those books and articles that have been most meaningful in your leadership development. Maybe pick up a new leadership book. Reconnect with a mentor or past coach and let them put you through your reflective paces.

Helpful References: “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror” Robert Kaplan, HBR (1/07)

“What Leaders Really Do.” John Kotter, HBR (12/01)

“Why Should Anyone be Led by You?” R. Gofee and G. Jones, HBR (9/00)

Take two weeks to assess your enterprise.

Does the vision remain clear and vibrant throughout the enterprise?

Have there been any shifts in the business environment that may require some re-direction?

How does your leadership team and the opinion leaders believe we’re doing? Be inclusive, don’t write off the squeaky wheel—there may be some genius lurking there.

Check-in with a few key customers / operations partners / internal customer or other key constituents and get their take on how things are going and what you might do to add even greater value for them in the future?

Is there anything you should stop doing so you can invest more in a higher priority? You, best of all know which uses of time are providing less rewards for you.

Helpful References: A Legacy of 21st Century Leadership, Les Wallace and Jim Trinka (2007)

Month Two:

Take one week and assess your team.

Do you really feel you have the right people in the right slots to be successful?

Who could benefit from a bit more coaching and encouragement?

Who’s contributing the most leadership to your effort? Are you certain you’ve shown sufficient appreciation—we all have big appetites for appreciation?

How well is the leadership development going for all of them? Have you check-in on their career learning plans?

Is it time for someone to move on, retire, or change seats?

Take two weeks and identify a strategy to re-energize the team and the enterprise.

What targeted leadership behaviors will you be emphasizing?

How will you appreciate and leverage your team’s contributions?

What will be the short-term priorities to re-focus the enterprise?

What coalition of leaders will you use to help create focus and energy?

Take one week and build your coalition and sanity check your plan with them.

Bare your soul about your own leadership refresh and focus.

Let them know why you need them and what their roles will be over the next few months.

Share your enterprise assessment and your ideas for re-charging effort and focus.

Use their input and perspective to fine-tune a plan you can all feel energy around.

Outline the next 100 days of activity and everybody’s roles.

Helpful References: “Your Company’s Secret Change Agents,” Richard Tanner and Jerry Sternin, HBR (5/05)

Month Three:

Take a week and re-energize your immediate team.

Make any necessary realignment of personnel—all at once—don’t dribble it out.

Seek out your thoroughbreds and tell them how much you appreciate their contributions—be specific.

Make a public commitment to lead differently—be specific.

Let the team know your plan and expectations:

“Why the re-fresh?” Remember we don’t have to be bad to want to be better.

“Where will it take us?” People rally around a crisp clear map of the territory.

“What do you need from them?” Be general with all and specific with each.

Take two weeks and brainstorm communication about the re-fresh.

Be highly visible everywhere with your message.

Have your coalition come behind and repeat and seal the messages.

Take some days off to recharge your battery—the next hundred days will be demanding.

Helpful References: Leading Change, John Kotter (1996)

“Leadership and the Psychology of Turnarounds,” Rosabeth Moss Kanter, HBR (6/03).

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