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Why the 100-day CEO plan sets you up for failure, not success.

  • Written by Michael Fishwick, the CEO of Venetian Media Group

Google is awash of 100-day plans for incoming executives. Probably because many first-time CEOs are all wondering: "what the f do I do now?"

This. is. normal.

A mentor of mine let me know a little known secret : You’re never actually ready to be a CEO.

You simply won’t have all the answers or know how to do what needs to be done on day one. Your only choice is to get in and get your hands dirty. Make mistakes and learn from them, like anything else in life. You’ll need to be forever learning.

So, why is the answer to give yourself 100 days or any other limiting time frame to find your way? In my opinion, this approach is reckless. Here's why.

A plan is crucial. But setting yourself up for failure is not. While it’s important to have a plan, to set goals and deliver, it is also important to understand that the first 100 days will not determine your success as CEO. Putting that type of pressure on yourself is something I did at first but to no avail. It puts unnecessary pressures on both you and your team. A sure-fire way to drive you crazy.

Timing is everything. For an incoming CEO, particularly within a complex business,  three months does not afford you enough time to properly assess the business and the culture or the current team, let alone execute a new strategy.

Listen and learn. Just because you hold the title of CEO does not mean you will have all the answers. Far from it. Talk to your team, your customers/clients and suppliers and take on board what they have to teach you. You don’t have to agree with all of it, but it’s important you listen. New CEOs need to maximise job preparation through research, consultation and introspection.

What if you fail? Giving yourself a 100-day goal is one thing but hinging success upon it is entirely different. What if it doesn’t go to plan? It’s very possible that you can salvage it, but it could look bad in the eyes of those who the 100-day plan was promised as well as the confidence knock it has on yourself. Take out some insurance for yourself and scrap the 100-days.

Mistakes happen. External forces out of your control can impact any time-sensitive plan. You can have the ultimate 100-day plan in place and something unexpected can (and probably will) still happen -a pandemic for example... Leadership and strategy planning need to be fluid and allow for bumps in the road. You need to allow yourself and your team some flexibility to acclimatise.

What’s next? Giving yourself a three-month goal is one thing but hinging success upon it is entirely different. What if for several reasons, it doesn’t go to plan? Do you leave? No, you pivot, you adjust, you move forward with purpose. All things you can’t do if you only have 100 days to attribute success.

While a 100-day plan is a nice gimmick, it’s not always realistic. A Mckinsey & Co study estimates that on average, stakeholders give CEOs nine months to fully develop a strategic vision and win support from employees.It suggests 14 months are needed to build the right team and a further five months to increase share price employing that direction.

Rome wasn’t built in a day (or 100) and it takes a team of great people. Leaders need to put their early efforts into understanding, analysing and bringing together a team in a genuine and empathetic way. This is how you set the business up for success.

The most successful CEOs are not always the leaders who are most knowledgeable, they are the leaders who create and inspire the best teams and support the business in achieving its vision.

Bulldozing your way through with a 100-day agenda, in my opinion, is not the answer.

Michael Fishwick is the CEO of Australian owned media company, Venetian Media Group. 

About Venetian Media Group

Venetian Media Group is an independent, Australian-owned and operated media agency. The VMG includes immersive brand experiences and content provider Yakkazoo, bespoke and Out-of-Home media provider Revolution360, local area billboard specialist Captive Vision Outdoor (CVO), installation and print solutions agency VIM, and full-service media agency, Frontier Advertising. VMG has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast and Singapore. For more information visit vmg-apac.com.

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