The First 100 Days of a NFP CEO’s Tenure
27 November 2012 at 12:38 pm
First impressions count! The approach a new CEO takes during their “first 100 days” can largely determine whether they succeed or fail according to sector insider, David James.
But how to get it right? In an article in the second issue of the SVA Consulting Quarterly, six Not for Profit CEOs – including Goodstart’s Julia Davidson, Jonathan Crowston from The Centre for Eye Research, and Jan Owen from the Foundation for Young Australians – open up about how to make the best impact and impression ranging from developing relationships with staff and board members to tackling strategy.
Once again the first 100 days of President Barack Obama’s term of office are under the microscope. Based on the premise that a president’s initial 100 days are crucial and can be used to measure effectiveness, prominent media outlets have already begun recommending the ‘wins’ he should make in this symbolic period.
The same idea is frequently applied to business leaders.
In Michael Watkins‘ highly regarded text for new business leaders, The First 90 Days (2003), he states boldly that “The actions you take during your first three months in a new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail. In a better world leaders wouldn’t be judged so much on their early accomplishments…However, new leaders live in the world in which, for better or worse, what new leaders do in their early days has a disproportionate impact on all that follows.”
However, new leaders live in the world in which, for better or worse, what new leaders do in their early days has a disproportionate impact on all that follows”.
In this article, we share the practical wisdom and experience of six CEOs of Australian Not for Profit organisations. This was gained during their early days as they endeavoured to make a positive impact on the organisation and its work. The themes that emerge act as a checklist for new CEOs, or others entering significant management roles. It will also be informative for non-profit board members and senior managers in understanding a new CEO’s priorities and concerns during the initial months.
The six leaders interviewed were:
- Professor Jonathan Crowston, Centre for Eye Research Australia
- Julia Davison, Goodstart Early Learning
- Jack Heath, SANE Australia
- Celia Hodson, School for Social Entrepreneurs
- Jan Owen, AM, Foundation for Young Australians
- The Hon John Watkins, Alzheimer’s Australia NSW
All six agreed that first impressions count. They all believed that the attitude a new CEO adopts, the communication protocols they establish, and the priorities they set lay the groundwork for the future of both the organisation and the contribution they will make to the organisation.
“They all believed that the attitude a new CEO adopts, the communication protocols they establish, and the priorities they set lay the groundwork for the future of both the organisation and the contribution they will make to the organisation”.
As one leader reflected, “It’s not that a new CEO’s first 100 days will either doom him or her to failure or guarantee success. Leaders entering new roles can stumble badly and still recover. But it’s a whole lot easier if they don’t stumble in the first place.”
All of the CEOs stressed the need for a planned, deliberate and thoughtful approach at this time to demonstrate and help entrench, from the outset, the same approach in their direct reports and the organisation’s culture.