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April 17, 2023

100 Day Plan for Leaders New in Role (Examples + Template)


When I dropped my son off at school on his first day of kindergarten, he looked at me and said, “I can’t wait to not be new anymore.” Thinking about the many people changing roles and companies these days, I can’t help but wonder how many may be counting the days until they’re not new anymore, too.

No matter how many years of experience a person has – even the most senior of leaders – being the “newbie” is daunting for most and hard enough that many avoid taking the new job in the first place. Add to it the complexity of the workplace these days – exhausted teams, workforce shortages, supply chain and business disruption, the war for talent, and constantly shifting ways of working and connecting as teams and organizations – being a leader in a new role is even more challenging.

For those talented and brave souls venturing to new roles and opportunities, congratulations. Instead of a new coffee mug or new decoration for your Zoom background (or at least, in addition to it), give yourself the gift of preparedness so you make the most of your first months on the job and set yourself up for success.

Is a 100 Day Plan Necessary for Leaders New in Role?

In short, yes. As a newly appointed leader, it’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting for the dust to settle – for you to get comfortable in your role and get a lay of the land, for your employees and teams to get accustomed to having a new leader before you start making any plans. However, waiting to form your plan means you lose the opportunity to set the right tone from the start by being purposeful, organized, and action-oriented.

What is a 100 Day Plan for New Leaders?

A 100 Day Plan is an action plan to guide executive leaders through their first critical months in a new role – outlining strategies and tactics to identify and engage key stakeholders and to build relationships, understand the business, set goals, and gain traction quickly so you can set up a foundation for long-term success in an organization.

While a plan needs to be customized for each leader – and you can download a 100 Day Plan Template here to get started – our experience points to six critical strategies all leaders can deploy to ace their first 100 days regardless of industry or function.

What should a 100 Day Plan include?

While a 100 Day Plan for executive leaders in a new role can take on many forms and is as unique as the business challenges leaders face, there are some core components that the best plans have. Use this 100 Day Plan example framework as a guide:

  • Situation Summary – Outline the current business landscape, strengths, opportunities and other important headlines that capture the context you’re stepping into as the leader in your role. This might include the state of engagement at your organization, cost pressures, how employees perceive you as the new leader and more. Take an employee-centric point of view by key audience segments and then try to understand the challenge they need to overcome in today’s environment. You may need to set up informational interviews with a few key colleagues to help confirm some of your assumptions and to highlight details that you wouldn’t yet know.
  • Goals – Consider both longer-term and near-term goals you have.
    • Longer-term: What do you want people to say about you and the business 18 months from now and what are some of the big actions you might consider taking to make your vision a reality?
    • Near-term: Where do you want to be 100 days in on the job? What impact do you want to have made and how does that line up with your longer-term goals? List your goals, ensuring there are business metrics and relationship goals.
    For example, a relationship goal could be to establish credibility and build trust with key stakeholders. A metric for that could be to meet with site leaders and front-line employees at five sites in the first 30 days.

    Here are some examples of other goals to consider:
    • Evolve the vision and goals for the organization’s future (if needed)
    • Retain top talent
  • Stakeholders / Audiences – Identify who the key stakeholders and audiences are that you need to get to know, understand, and build partnerships within your team and across the organization. Start thinking about what you’d like them to know, feel and do as you get to know one another.
    • Know: What facts do they need from me? What new information can I provide them? Examples: Key milestones I’m setting, changes from how the role was previously defined and new priorities / expectations I’m establishing.
    • Feel: What do I want to be top of mind when they walk away from meeting with me? What pain point are they currently experiencing that I might be able to begin alleviating? Example: Confidence in the path forward, comfort in their ability to talk to me.
    • Do: Is there an action that you need them to take right now? Is there a behavior that you want to see them demonstrate going forward? Example: Share the information you’ve provided them with their team, commit to asking questions and keeping the lines of communication open and adopt a mindset that assumes good intent even when faced with challenges or times of change.
  • Key Messages Articulate what the main messages are that you want to convey as you get to know your various key stakeholders. These may be key themes that you know you want to highlight about your leadership style and vision for the role, high-level examples of how you view your function tying into broader company goals and strategies, or a list of commitments you are making to your staff and the actions you are asking them to take while you settle in.
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Communication Plan Make a plan for how you’ll purposefully reach your stakeholders and how you’ll communicate over time to accomplish your goals. When you consider your stakeholders, think about big “centers of gravity” so you can separate out how to allocate time and where you can have the greatest impact by investing time and energy. Also, consider what key relationships you need to build because they’re critical to establishing bridges and sponsorship across the organization. Look for communication channels that already exist so you can simply plug in without having to build infrastructure – don’t underestimate the value of informal conversations and small group huddles as a powerful vehicle while people are getting to know you.
  • Quick Win Tactics – Identify opportunities to generate quick and meaningful wins that demonstrate progress toward your overall goals. It is easy for leaders to get caught up in the long game, focusing on the notable impact they aspire to make within a business, but it’s the small wins along the way that both give you something to celebrate and help your stakeholders appreciate the impact you are already making.
  • Measures for Success – Consider how you’ll know when success is achieved. Identify the metrics and how you’ll monitor progress – remember, this is a 100 Day Plan, so the metrics should fit accordingly with that timeline. For example, a measure could be around moving sentiment – such as belief in the company, confidence and optimism in the future, and clarity around where we’re heading and why. Use the progress in your stakeholder engagement and communication plans to show momentum.

Want help getting started? Download our free 100 Day Plan Template.

Click to download the free 100 Day Plan Template

100 Day Plan Example – Your 3 Month Action Plan

The following is a sample 100 Day Plan that shows how to quickly and strategically build out your approach. You can simply customize this list, or you can use the list for inspiration to develop a more detailed plan in alignment with your or your new organization’s preferred format.

Before you get started:

  • Continue to learn as much as you can about the organization and your team
  • Have pre-meetings with identified stakeholders to discuss the game plan and listen for key expectations, core issues and opportunities
  • Begin to map key stakeholders
  • Get briefed on the employee, culture and communication landscape (set up an initial meeting with the Communications team, if possible)
  • Consider having an informal visit with your new team over breakfast or lunch
  • Prepare your elevator speech and/or your initial message platform

Month 1

  • Create a list for your Listening plans, outlining who all you need to meet with to hear perspectives, observe and tap for insights; set up meetings with key stakeholders (including senior leaders, peers, direct reports and skip-level reports/teams); if you don’t yet know their names, list their roles to prompt you to then find out the right point of contact
  • Begin your listening “tour;” reinforce that you’re hearing what people are saying and make a point to circle back with anyone who asked a question that you couldn’t answer in the moment
  • Connect with Communications and HR partners to understand the company culture and how communication happens
  • Set the stage with your team and stakeholders with what to expect these first days and weeks, including what to continue to focus on and do
  • Identify key contributors and any key people who are flight risks on your team and engage with them, including conducting stay interviews
  • Actively participate in company onboarding so you experience what others also experience

Month 2

  • Continue listening tour
  • Work with team members to codify strategy; involve people representing a cross-section of the organization whenever possible
  • Identify communication channels you’ll regularly use to share updates on what you’re hearing, doing and thinking in advance of the formal launch of your communications plan

Month 3

  • Continue listening tour
  • Finalize your strategy and plan and socialize with key stakeholders for alignment
  • Develop a communication plan for playback of listening and to share strategy going forward
  • Refresh key messages and leader platform
  • Implement communication plan
  • Continue a steady cadence of employee listening, and update/amend the plan and messages in real-time based on new, viable insights that come from listening and any key changes within the business or your work environment

6 Strategies to Learn and Lead in Your First 100 Days

From our years of experience working with senior leaders as they navigate being new in their role while leading teams and organizations, we’ve compiled a list of six strategies that will help you learn while leading yourself and others with confidence and credibility.

1. Study up

Learn everything there is about the team or company you’re joining, but also spend the time where it counts so you don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. Have a game plan leading up to your start date for what you need to know to hit the ground running, what you can learn along the way and how you want to get immersed. There’s plenty you can read online, but there’s so much more you can learn from inside the organization, especially by speaking with those who have the pulse.

Get to know the Communications and HR/People/Culture teams early on because they likely have a wealth of information about employee mindsets, hot-button issues and the best ways to reach and interact with employees. Many Communications teams we work with would be happy to help you know how information flows in the organization and what channels are best for leaders like you to get information and communicate effectively with your teams.

When an incoming senior executive was getting ready to join the organization, we partnered with the Communications team to develop an executive briefing book on the state of the workforce and how communication happens inside the company. There was a briefing meeting, great discussion and an opportunity for the leader to get to know the Communications team as they discussed shared needs and expectations so the leader could get connected and communicate effectively with key audiences. All of this led to a better, more actionable 100 Day Plan.

2. Figure out where to start

The first months are an exercise in drinking from a fire hose. Prioritizing is essential, but it can be hard to know where to start. Many leaders we’ve worked with have found it helpful to have a “working session.” In those sessions, we work with the leader to sort through critical business and communication demands and needs and then map their 100 Day Plan – with a particular eye on the next 30 days. These sessions give the leader a chance to step out of the day-to-day, assess the situation, determine priorities and frame a practical action plan for how to spend their time – always with business outcomes and stakeholder needs in mind. This session also sets the foundation for the key messages to convey and what to communicate and when.

3. Hit the road

Get out of your office. Whether you’re rounding, doing listening tours, road shows or coffees, get in front of as many people as you can so you get to know people across levels and roles in the organization. There’s nothing like being in person to ask questions, surface ideas and stories, read the room, feel the vibe and get a sense of what’s being said (and not said). If you can’t be in person, do your best to hit the road virtually with virtual office visits, coffees and the like. Make a commitment to visit those teams and sites as soon as possible when you can. This one is easy to put on the back burner, so make a point to schedule a set number of meet-and-greets per week to hold yourself accountable.

Asking questions during your onsite or virtual meetings is an important part of your listening. The best leaders lead by listening. They seek to understand, not to judge, and make this a regular part of how they lead. Find out why things are the way they are. Get to know people’s stories. Ask them what gets them excited to come to work, and what pain points or barriers they see and experience that get in the way. Make it about them, while also giving them a window into who you are.

As important as listening is, that doesn’t mean you can’t also share your story. As a leader, people need to know you first before they’ll get on board with your vision or strategy. Help them know who you are as a person and as a leader – what gets you excited, why you want to be a part of the team, how people who know you best describe you, what principles you live by and what brings you joy outside of work. All these things give others a chance to know you, how you tick and how you think about the world, which gives them a chance to have a human connection with you and to be able to help you deliver on your vision.

Another key part of sharing your story is being ready with your elevator speech and core messages. The elevator speech is the main message that you want to convey succinctly to your key stakeholders and audiences. Have your story ready and use it regularly from day one. You may customize this a bit for your various audiences and over time, but there’s power in being consistent overall.

Determining your Elevator Speech as a Leader New in Role

Keep it short and make it conversational. Speak to what your role is and how you’ve been here before in your previous role. Write it out so you’re thoughtful about what you want to convey. This is how many people will first remember you. For example:

Example Elevator Speech 1:

I’ve seen the power of transforming the employee experience and am excited to lead our team as we make it happen here together.

  • This says you know employee experience and that you’ve been here before, which speaks to credibility and confidence in the role and where you’re going to take the team.
  • This shows that you’re bringing energy and enthusiasm, and that you want to be part of the team because you view yourselves on a common journey aimed at getting results. This is motivating, speaks to a shared end game, and reinforces camaraderie and collaboration.

Example Elevator Speech 2:

Having a child with medical issues, I have immense appreciation for how much work goes into making great healthcare possible. I’m grateful to be part of this team and to partner together with you to improve access to great care for those we serve.

  • Self discloses something personal and relatable, and establishes that this is a field of work that the person respects and appreciates.
  • Sharing gratitude signals a person with character, humility and heart.
  • Speaks to leading the team as colleagues, not subordinates, and that we’re in this together.
  • Signals a vision of what’s possible that you want the team to work toward.

For senior-most executives, a best practice is having your own leadership message platform. Much like a “stump speech” for politicians, this is a set of key messages and stories to help you tell your story in a way that connects to your audiences and drives line of sight and engagement. It’s a useful tool for driving message consistency across communications and channels, as well as for saving time preparing for meetings and communications (for both the leader and the communicators who support them).

When leaders are new in role, the method of developing this platform is especially powerful in helping leaders think purposefully about how to articulate their story, their vision and their approach to shaping the strategy.

4. Have a stakeholder engagement and communication plan

The complement to your core messages is an engagement and communication plan. Whether you’re preparing your own, or have the support of your Communications team, this is a must so that you are intentional in your first 100 days (and beyond) about which stakeholders and audiences you are reaching, the best approach to do so and the outcome you want to see.

Take a few minutes to follow this 5-step method to plan your communication:

  • OUTCOME: What’s the business goal for your engagement and outreach? As a leader new in role, your business goal may be to keep people focused on the current strategy, while you listen and determine the path forward. Or perhaps you need to stabilize the business and/or team. Whatever the situation, pinpoint what your business outcome is for the first 100 days.
  • AUDIENCE: Who are the key audiences you need to engage and where are they coming from? Different audiences will have different perceptions and information needs – and the more you know about each, the more effective you’ll be at connecting with them and ultimately moving them to action. If you discover that you don’t know much about some audiences, it’s a signal you need to go and get to know them more.
  • MESSAGE: What are the main things you want them to know and do? Define and share the most important messages that you want your audiences to know (factoring in where they’re coming from to make your messages most relevant). Here’s where your elevator speech and core messages (or platform) will be useful. Have your messages answer the:
    • Why (rationale and context)
    • What (what’s happening and what to focus on for now)
    • When (a sense of timing for what’s happening and what’s to come)
    • How (how you’re approaching the coming weeks, how they can help, how you’ll use their insights to develop your action plan)
    • Who (who you are, what brings you here, what’s important to you, what they can expect from you and what you expect from them)
    • WIIFM (what’s in it for “me” – in other words, what all of this means for them)
  • METHOD: What’s the best way to reach them? Map your plan for how to connect with people in ways that foster conversation and the ability to share information freely and candidly. In-person is ideal. Consider where you need one-on-one conversations vs. where small group sessions or larger sessions – such as town halls – can be helpful. Maybe there are feedback channels you want to use or initiate. Consider the mix of methods.
  • MEASURE: How do you know if the plan is working? You can learn a lot about what’s working based on the nature of the conversations you’re having, whether you sense people are sharing their views openly and the questions you’re getting. Engage your direct reports and Communications team to share insights and feedback on what they’re hearing. Consider whether informal or formal pulse checks would be useful to get a sense of things as well.

TIP: Having a stakeholder engagement and communication plan is a critical tool beyond your first 100 days, too. The best leaders are always purposeful about how they stay connected with stakeholders and audiences and how they’re showing up regularly through communications.

Use this Communication Planning Template as you build your 100 Day Plan.Click to download the Take 5 Planning Template

5. Resist the urge to make change right away

Most leaders are hired to be change agents, so it’s counterintuitive to say don’t come in and change things right away. Even if you think you know what needs to change, try to avoid making big changes in those first 100 days as it can usually cause more harm than help.

Typically, leaders use the first 100 days to listen and formulate an informed strategy, gain key stakeholder buy-in, and then they roll out the strategy in a thoughtful way, so the right audiences are reached at the right time and with the right message. To the greatest extent possible, let others be part of the strategy shaping so it’s the collective plan, not “your” plan alone.

WATCH OUT: Without adequate upfront listening in the first 100 days, there’s an assumption that the leader may be uninterested, uninformed or misaligned with the company’s heritage, culture and people. Any which way, it’s a bad look, and it hinders your and the team’s ability to get things done if you come out of the gate with your mind made up about what needs to happen.

There are a few exceptions when making changes in the first 100 days could be the right option. Perhaps there are things you’ve heard and seen that are clearly broken and getting in the way of the employee experience that could be fixed right away and that signal your focus on the people. Or, perhaps something is happening that’s putting the organization at major risk and cannot wait for action. In those cases, immediate change may be the answer to stop the bleeding and/or to signal important and meaningful change right away.

Engage key stakeholders who have institutional perspective in the planning so you’re aware of blind spots or bright spots and leverage your Communications team so what’s communicated is done in the right way and casts a positive light on your approach and intention.

6. Be yourself

All eyes are on you as the new manager or leader, especially those first 100 days, and people are searching for meaning in everything you do (or don’t do). Consider your leadership style and what has served you well and will continue to serve you. Bring that forward with intentionality in how you show up. Check the old habits or ways of working that may not have been as effective at the door. Communicate with purpose.

Lead with heart – knowing that the best leaders today are those who bring authenticity, empathy and humanity to the workplace, so teams can be their best selves and deliver on their mission and goals in the best way.

Empathy is not a “soft” skill

Leaders who practice empathy have more engaged and higher-performing teams, as well as more profitable businesses overall. (Catalyst research study: “The Power of Empathy in Times of Crisis and Beyond,” Sept 2021)

  • 79% of US workers agree empathetic leadership decreases employee turnover. (EY Consulting survey, Oct. 2021)
  • 85% of employees report that empathetic leadership in the workplace increases productivity. (EY Consulting survey, Oct. 2021)

The Bottom Line

Being an executive leader in a new role comes with big responsibility and a lot of hard work. With the right preparation and thoughtful approach to how you lead and communicate in your first 100 days – and year – you can make your first weeks and months ones that recharge, inspire, motivate and chart the path for great work together to accomplish your goals and strengthen your company’s future.

Don’t feel you need to do this important work on your own. Let those with expertise in these areas partner with you so you can elevate your presence, focus your time where you can have the greatest impact on the business, and achieve the results you want faster and better. If you’d like to discuss ways we can help you get quick wins and plan for long-term impact, contact us today.

—Kate Bushnell

Set the right tone in your new role from the start by being purposeful, organized, and action-oriented with the help of this 100 Day Plan Template. Click the image below to download the 100 Day Plan Template today!

Click to download the 100 Day Plan Template today


About Kate

kate-peters21Kate is President at The Grossman Group and works closely with the team to deliver innovative and strategic communication solutions for clients that address their everyday and defining business challenges. She's worked with leaders across a variety of functions and industries, including Astellas, Kohler, Lockheed Martin, Molex, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery, SC Johnson, The Hartford, and Tecomet, among others.

Connect with Kate on LinkedIn.

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