How CEOs Can Build a Foundation for Success During Their First 100 Days


A new CEO often faces a skeptical workforce and a tremendous amount of scrutiny. Although CEOs arrive with a plan to evaluate organizations and employees, it’s important to remember that the CEO also is being evaluated and that the first few months can make or break new leadership.

New CEOs are expected to effect change – a change in leadership often signals a company’s desire for a course correction or desire for growth. This is particularly the case for CEOs hired from outside the organization. CEOs face the pressure of delivering results and driving an organization forward, while also learning on the go and proving themselves to the people they are leading. In today’s faced-paced business environment, CEOs cannot be fearful of disrupting the status quo, rather they must move quickly to effect change. Lean into your instinct to be disruptive, don’t shy away from it. The first 100 days are critical for setting the tone for your leadership style and expectations. Here’s how to build a foundation for success.

Build a Leadership Team

A successful CEO will quickly figure out a leadership team and structure. Evaluating current personnel, getting people into the right positions, and creating allies is an essential step for the first 100 days of a CEO’s tenure.

1) CEOs must be able to evaluate team members relatively quickly, learning their strengths and weaknesses.

2) In the first 100 days, a CEO should be able to formulate and implement a structure for leadership. Is the organization top-heavy? Where is the dead weight? Who are the sacred cows, and which ones should be set out to pasture?

3) The CEO should determine who the superstars are in the organization, at every level, and lean on them for critical insights. Many CEOs will bring in people they know and install them in key positions, but most companies have superstars who know the good, the bad, and where the political landmines exist. Empowering the right people can help a new CEO hit the ground running and gain them great allies.

Early Wins

Employees will want to impress and prove themselves to a new CEO. It’s only natural. People want the person in charge to like career coach helping a business personthem and to know that they are doing a good job. They also want to know that the person in charge knows what they are doing (sadly, this is not always the case). Early wins in the first 100 days can win over even the most skeptical employees who, perhaps, have had to endure past poor leadership. A CEO who can come in, identify some low hanging fruit, and get things done will boost morale and motivate employees. This is one of the best ways for a CEO to build credibility – by delivering quick results. If you notice your team is racking up wins too, be sure to acknowledge their effort in making your transition a smooth one.

Be Decisive

A CEO who is new to an organization must spend a fair amount of time gathering information, talking to employees, and getting up to speed. This process, however, cannot lead to indecision and slow down what needs to get done. Leading an organization and being the final decision maker takes a fair amount of courage.

A new CEO must find a balance between getting up to speed on matters and being a decisive leader that moves the organization forward. Avoid “listening tours,” which often result in a stream of complaints. Rather, seek out productive conversations and communication that focus on positive changes and moving the company forward. Make sure each conversation ends with clear takeaways for change.

Try to balance listening to people’s feelings with data and facts. You are a fresh face with a fresh perspective. Often in organizations, perceptions build up and become a reality, but do the facts support the perception? If so, don’t hesitate to make changes. Building a leadership team and empowering the right people in the organization can help a CEO be the decisive leader who is needed.

Create a Structure

A structure can help a new CEO find their bearings within the organization and help them implement their ideas. For example, quarterly goals or skip-level meetings with key employees can create an environment where a CEO begins placing their imprint on the organization. A structure or system that the CEO creates and implements can establish some form to the cultural and organizational changes the CEO is creating. It also can be a way for the CEO to gain insightful knowledge along the way without slowing things down.

Time Management

In today’s fast-paced, technological environment, time management can become an issue. During the first 100 days, everyone will want your ear. People inside and outside the company will reach out – some will want to sell you something, some will offer helpful advice, and some will have political motivations.

Making the most of your time, especially early on, is essential. Not every matter warrants a CEO’s attention, and you should try to avoid being dragged into the weeds on petty squabbles. Identify your gatekeepers, help them understand when a matter needs to be elevated and when it does not, so that you don’t end up bogged down. Gathering quality information (structure) and building a good leadership team are two great ways to ensure your time is being spent wisely. Meeting with your leadership team regularly will help you filter out the noise and cut through to the important updates.


When a CEO begins at an organization, it’s important to hit the ground running, but also essential to make informed decisions. It is a delicate balancing act for even the most seasoned executive. Act too slow, and you risk losing credibility and valuable time. Act without adequate information, and your decisions and behavior can come across as reckless and ill-informed. Following our suggestions can help you establish the framework needed for success.

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