Leading from Day One: Essential Strategies in the First 90 Days

Leading from Day One: Essential Strategies in the First 90 Days
March 10, 2024 Jen Ryley

Stepping into a new leadership role is both an exhilarating challenge and a profound opportunity for growth. It’s a chance to make a significant impact, inspire our team, and steer our organizations towards success. Initial days in a leadership position can set the tone for our tenure, making it crucial to hit the ground running. Here’s how we can do just that, focusing on what’s most important and why.


1. Establish Clear Communication

Clear, transparent communication is the cornerstone of effective leadership. From day one, make it your mission to open lines of communication with your team. This means not just talking but listening. Understand their ideas, concerns, and expectations. By doing so, you build trust and demonstrate that you value their contributions. Remember, the goal is to foster a culture where dialogue is encouraged, and feedback is constructive. Setting up your communication cadence is also critical. Get clear on regular meeting schedules, expectations and processes to support two-way information flow. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is leaving team members uncertain.


2. Set Vision and Goals

Having a clear, compelling vision is what separates leaders from managers. Early on, share your vision for the team or organization, but don’t stop there. Translate this vision into tangible, achievable goals and metrics. This helps provide direction and ensures everyone is aligned towards a common purpose. Make these goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). This clarity not only motivates your team but also gives them a roadmap to success. As a new leader it is also critical to ensure buy-in. Work with your team and key stakeholders to iterate your vision and goals allowing them to make changes along the way. The earlier you engage others in the process, the more ownership they will feel in executing the vision. People act more readily on their own ideas than on those of other people. Engage early and often in the collaboration!


3. Prioritize Relationship Building

Leadership is fundamentally about relationships. Prioritize getting to know your team members not just as team members, but as individuals. Understand their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams, and how they fit into the broader picture of the team’s success. Similarly, build relationships with peers and superiors. A strong network within the organization can provide support, offer insights, and facilitate collaboration. As a new leader, people love to give us advice. Seek it out! Ask for insights about culture, informal norms and best ways to communicate as a way to get to know others better. Set up regular touch base meetings with key peers and partners to maintain open communication channels. Avoid sharing your insights about what you see is “broken” or how you did things in your previous company too early.  There will be a time and place to bring in your observations and experience, but early trust building conversations may not be the right timing. Take the time to understand BEFORE you judge.


4. Embrace a Learning / Growth Mindset

Even as a leader, you’re not expected to have all the answers. Adopt a growth mindset. Be open to new ideas, approaches, and feedback. Lead with genuine curiosity and questions instead of assumptions and edicts. This not only helps you adapt and grow but also sets a positive example for your team. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and improvement, where mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn. Show open appreciation and support for those who look at situations from a variety of viewpoints instead of just going along with everyone else. By nurturing an environment of respectful disagreement and discussion on issues, better solutions can come out.


5. Assess and Adapt to the Organizational Culture

Every organization has its unique culture and dynamics. Spend your initial days observing, understanding, and adapting to this culture. This doesn’t mean compromising your values or leadership style but finding a way to align your approach with the organization’s norms and values. Successful leaders are those who can navigate and positively influence the organizational culture.


6. Quick Wins Matter

Identify opportunities for quick wins – projects or initiatives that can be completed relatively quickly and have a visible impact. Quick wins are important for several reasons. They build momentum, boost team morale, and demonstrate your effectiveness as a leader. However, while focusing on quick wins, don’t lose sight of the long-term goals.


7. Set Expectations Early

Make sure team members are clear on roles, how you work (formally and informally) and how the team will function together. Clarify through discussions (not direction) the behaviors that will be supported and those that will not. Create a 90 or 100-day plan to show others where you will spend your time and why, the questions you are trying to answer early on and when they can expect your thoughts, assessments or plans past the 90-day mark. Failure to share a 90 day plan can make your leaders wonder what you are doing and even worse, may send you down the wrong path or create a situation where you miss out on key stakeholders needed for success.


“All conflict comes from misaligned expectations.”
– Dwight Dayhoff, CTO of A Closer Look


8. Manage Your Energy, Not Just Your Time

Leadership demands are high, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Effective leaders know the importance of managing their energy, not just their time. This means finding a balance, knowing when to push forward and when to step back and recharge. Your energy and attitude can set the tone for the entire team, so prioritizing self-care is not selfish but essential for sustained success.

Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. The most important aspect is to be authentic and true to your values while being adaptable and responsive to your team and organizational needs. By focusing on these key areas above, you can lay a strong foundation for a successful and impactful leadership tenure.


Need support for a new leader in your organization? Reach out to us!