28th Feb 2012

At 30 days: what should Jacob Lew be focused on?

Jacob Lew has been acting Chief of Staff for President Obama for a month now. For any new leader there is a lot to juggle in the early days of a new role appointment. It can be tempting to “get stuck in” and forge blindly ahead, but at First100 we recommend taking time to critically assess your performance. It is vital to lift your head up at regular intervals – think more deeply about your progress so far and where you are headed in the future.

During this crucial phase of Lew’s appointment there are a few things he should take the time to think about in order to ensure he is on the track to success. He needs to:

  1. Review progress against plan
  2. Decide who and what really matters
  3. Accelerate team performance
  4. Update the First 100 Days Plan
  5. Identify the critical success factors for the next 30 days

The First100 framework is based on the implementation of a detailed First 100 Days Plan which outlines key strategic priorities and deliverables. It is meant as a guide and we recommend referring to it routinely throughout the course of your first 100 days.

It takes time to figure out the culture and politics of any organisation. 30 days in you should have a clearer understanding of such and be confident enough to assess who, and what matters. The skilled leader understands that there are two dimensions at play in any organisation; what is happening above the surface and what is happening below the surface. This takes a certain amount of emotional intelligence – but you must be able to read your organisation in order to mobilise resources and achieve your aims.

Another key performance accelerator is a strong and healthy team.  With a new familiarity and a keener insight into the challenges which lay ahead, you will be better equipped to assess your team. So now is the time to invest in skills training and team building, and if necessary, recruitment of fresh talent.

At this stage the First 100 Days Plan which was written before your appointment will need to be altered and updated to effectively address the initially unforeseen challenges. With this in mind, it is important to be realistic in planning the next 30 days. There is a high after promotion, and at the starting point of a new role. At the 30 day milestone you are at a point of greater understanding about your role within the organisation, and the challenges that were not apparent at the start should vividly clear by now. Do not brush over these problems – to achieve early success the ambitious and dynamic leader needs to accept there are problems – this is far more constructive than denial.

Bearing these issues in mind, Lew should be well on his way to a successful and effective first 100 days.

Hilda Goold

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