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The First 100 Days for Female Leaders

Women share advice for navigating the crucial period at the start of a new role

A new executive stood in front of hundreds of people, introducing herself to front-line employees at her nonprofit organization for the first time. While speaking, she looked down and suddenly noticed a text from her nanny: The dinner the executive had left for her children was inedible. “I actually stopped what I was doing and said, ‘You guys will laugh at this because I’m sure others have done this before… I put raw meat in the crockpot this morning and didn’t turn it on, so it’s been sitting on the counter [all day].” The crowd laughed, completely disarmed. “Someone approached me after and said, ‘That really helps us when we see people like you are like us.’ The reason people want to follow people that lead is because they see something in that person that they can connect to.”

As everyone from career professionals to presidents knows, the first 90-100 days of a new position can be crucial for new leaders. Your first quarter at an organization is your chance to demonstrate who you are, to set the tone for your tenure, and in the most cartoonish sense, to come roaring in with changes blazing, forcing through as many of your priorities as possible before the glow of newness fades. The first few months are imbued with a sense of possibility, the excitement of what’s to come, a clean slate ready for the brave to leave their marks.

And yet, such transitions are also a time of severe risk, as leaders attempt to reconcile conflicting expectations with the realities of their organizations, while figuring out their team’s capabilities and challenges. According to one estimate, nearly half of executives who take new jobs perform below expectations at some point in their transitions. Relatively few organizations have formal supports for those beginning new leadership roles. Thus, leaders are often left to chart the territory themselves, perusing a burgeoning literature about how to handle the first days of a new job, which now boasts dozens of books and articles.

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