How New Managers Can Build Leadership Success With a 30-60-90 Day Plan

Breaking down your first 90 days as a leader can yield valuable lessons and build a strong foundation for the future

Every new leader needs a good plan. We all have our own styles, tricks and trades that we bring into a new role when we start. We have our own identity, our own personality, and want to quickly make our mark using the skills and learnings acquired from previous jobs. But nothing beats a solid plan from day one.

When you add the expectations of team members, superiors and external forces to your own ambition, a new management role is a lot to take on. The change alone requires a completely new mindset, as we have discussed in previous posts, and a strategy to get you through the first few months.

The biggest mistake you can make is to try and do too much in the first few weeks of your role when you're a relative novice to a new culture, have new relationships to build and a new team to meet, understand and guide. 

Top football signings don’t just turn up at a new club and expect everything to click into place. Well, maybe some do. Most of them, however, will get to know their new teammates, sit down with their manager to understand expectations and so on.

The art of a solid plan

Adapting to the new landscape is a process which requires careful planning. And every good leader should have a plan from day one. A solid plan will help set your own personal agenda within the organization and give you self confidence in your own leadership.

It's the same principle that all Olympic middle distance runners deploy. 

How often do you see a 1500-meter runner burst out of the blocks and complete a sub-10 seconds for the first 100 meters? Never. Why? 

Because they have a race plan. A beginning, a middle and an end.

But imagine for a moment that they did go full speed from the starting gun. What would happen? 

Firstly, spectators in the stands would be thinking "OK, this guy is fast, but he's not going to win this race." After a lap or two, you would start to tire and slow down, and then eventually all of your competitors would overtake you. These athletic principles — pace yourself, have a plan, and execute it — all apply to your first 90 days in a leadership role. 

Expectations and planning

New managers walk in on day one with lots of new expectations, for sure, but no one expects to achieve immediate success and lead from the get go. Quite the opposite. There is usually a period of onboarding - something of a honeymoon period — where you get a window to build connections and get used to the new environment. 

Your manager will expect you to immerse yourself first in the new culture and build. It is not necessarily about results to begin with. 

That being said, you still need to keep the end goal in mind. 

A builder tasked with constructing a house has a vision for the complete house. But it all starts with laying the first brick. 

Before that can happen, there is a whole range of activities: they discuss what they are going to do with their team, mix cement, prepare surfaces, and take measurements. You can’t start anywhere else. 

These ideas and analogies here are the same when you step into a management position. 

New managers often create short-term, mid-term and long term goals to shape their agenda and make a difference within their organization. 

At Krauthammer, we view the 30-60-90 day plan as a roadmap and a commitment to your own goals and performance across the first 90 days of your new job. It’s a good way to pace yourself, set goals and build the foundation for a successful leadership career. 

A detailed plan will help you prioritize your daily work and promote a strong impression to your peers that you are focused on developing a mindset to succeed. 

And through this article we will outline the most important activities to consider in your first 30, 60 and 90 days to help build structure around your personal and team goals. 

Be the sponge

Things to do: Days 0 to 30

  • Arrange a lunch meeting with your boss to outline expectations. 
  • Book focused planning time to outline key relationships you need to build. 
  • Host a team meeting and then arrange one-to-ones with each of your team members.
  • Watch and learn from your team, to see how they currently approach their work. Ask open questions to encourage communication and feedback. 
  • Pause and reflect after each day.

The first 30 days, as mentioned above, is not all about doing - it is more of a window to introduce yourself and your larger-than-life character to members of the new company/ team. 

Expectations are accordingly adjusted for you - no one expects you to be hitting targets and achieving in these first 30 days. 

Often new managers want to impose themselves on the workplace - make a big splash or adjust the way things are done - but we think you’re best observing and learning for now. Be a sponge! 

And be prepared because the first 30 days will zip by. So, don’t set unreasonable goals. Keep this period focused on learning and relationship building.

Generally speaking, most managers will spend a lot of time in the first 30 days on administrative activities, such as learning about new platforms and technologies, training and workplace processes, as well as visits to other locations and customers. 

It is important to reserve planning time for yourself. Have a good look through the exact ‘ask’ of your role. 

What does your manager want from you? 

Are you leading an existing team or have you been hired to rebuild an underperforming team? 

Or, do they want you to start from scratch and bring new hires in? 

This is a good time to draw up a small list of the key people you need to engage over the first 30 days. 

As you put that together, we see some key activities to focus on in this crucial time frame: 

Discuss expectations with your boss 

Get a meeting with your boss in nice and early. This should be activity No.1 in the first 30 days. 

You can’t be expected to achieve in your new role unless you understand intimately what has been asked of you and what precisely your boss wants to see from you and your team. 

This meeting can cover tangible goals and also operational activities. 

There is lots of material out there on how to approach this conversation. But make sure you cover:

  • Expectations: Ask what they expect and how they see the first 30 days unfolding and put your own ideas on the table too.

  • Business dynamics/ challenges: these will be a constant theme of your discussions and how you tackle these and adjust to them will define how your relationship works and your team’s relationships too.

  • The next meeting: Check in regularly, but work out how they operate and what their preferences are too. They will likely make this quite clear. Don’t just have one conversation early on, and then leave a gap of two weeks. Book more time, as regular as possible, because this relationship is key to your success.

Get to know your team/ partners

Just as important as the opening discussion with your boss, are the first exchanges with your team. 

First impressions last. And don’t forget how you felt when you were in their shoes. You were probably anxious about what your new manager was like to work with and whether you would click. 

And, just like you were likely to feel when you met your new boss, they would probably want to make a mark and get more responsibility, opportunity and recognition.

Meet as a team, but find time to sit down with them and individually introduce yourself and outline your goals. This is not easy, and there are different approaches to this as you may be managing people who were former peers. 

We all have different styles, but try to avoid falling into traps, such as posturing as one of the team, made famous by David Brent in The Office. 

Don’t try and be a friend to everyone. 

Keep the discussions authentic and professional and actively listen to what your colleagues are telling you. All of the clues to how you can motivate or mobilize them are buried in these conversations.

Take the time to hear them out, rather than pushing your objectives on them. 

Share with them your own insights, concerns, fears and ask them what expectations they have for you. 

Give them a window into the thinking of management. Your team will want to know that they are being kept informed. Mostly, they will be thinking about themselves and their future. 

Don’t forget other key stakeholders, too. 

Alongside your own team there is a spread of peers across other departments who are key players in your leadership journey. 

Take time to talk to them too. If you’re a marketing manager, this will mean connecting with the sales manager or a financial manager. Seek them all out, build your network as you go.  

Take stock, breath and relax 

It’s early on in your 30-60-90 journey so try as much as you can to stop and savour the experience. 

Yes, easier said than done when you’re a manager. But there are benefits to finding moments to relax and reflect. 

The real danger of sprinting out the blocks is that you are more prone to early mistakes - a tweak to a process that you know worked much better in your previous role - that leads to unforeseen consequences. It helps to use this time to study how things are working, thinking about where you could be effective, and building the bridges that will help you hit your goals.

Observe and contribute

Things to do: Days 31 to 60

  • Discuss your first 30 days with your boss and share learnings. 
  • Plan weekly one-to-one meetings with team members to discuss last month’s team and personal performance. 
  • Join a team project and contribute ideas, make suggestions.
  • Develop your knowledge around other business areas: customer experience, sales, design 
  • Book focused planning and reflection time. 

So, where are we? 

That’s right, you’ve partly got your feet under the table, have met all of your team, discussed expectations with your boss and connected with some key peers who will help you along the way. Good job! 

The second 30 days is about building on this and consolidating. As the first 30 days go by in a flash, it is logical that much of the work we did in that time period, extends seamlessly into the next. 

At some point you will start to wonder about what big projects you are going to lead or when your first big achievement will land. But not yet.

Instead, keep your focus on your team. What you are doing in this stage is developing the key infrastructure and mindset to help you succeed

Try to view this period as an extension to the first 30 days and resist the urge for wholesale changes that might jar with the status quo. 

Delve, probe, contribute 

Instead, you can start to contribute where you feel you can add value, through adjusting a process or suggesting a way to improve a workflow. Keep your perspective at 30,000 feet while you are still new to the business, preserve your curiosity for now, and apply relevant outside experience where necessary. 

By watching how your team is currently working you can find ways to apply your experience to help them work more efficiently. Try this as early as you can in the second 30 days while you are still fresh. 

Additionally, continue to listen and learn from your team members too, and absorb their tips and tricks. 

Spend time with them to discuss their daily routines, how they tackle projects, who they team up with and what barriers they encounter (that maybe you can help address for them). 

During this phase, you can start to organize information, take the lead in team discussions, assess individual strengths and weaknesses, and outline your areas of focus. 

Start to build a very detailed profile of your role in the organization, and the market. This can be used as a SWOT analysis going forwards, to build recommendations and suggest changes or improvements to support business and team goals. 

This is a bit like the role of an investigative journalist. They will spend many weeks and months collecting information and speaking to people in order to build a clear picture of what is happening, and maybe why. 

In many ways, that is the objective here. Except you’re not taking down a Richard Nixon, but using the information to develop yourself and your team and find a clear pathway towards growth and improvement. 

As you go, you can step in occasionally where you feel your experience can help.

This could be helping to unblock someone on your team, advocating for changes, or setting up meetings to discuss changing how you work.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and express your beliefs. And, at the same time, keep one foot in the learning phase and be open to pushback or negative feedback.

Build and expand your knowledge

The larger the business, the more siloed the operations tend to be. Rarely, if ever, do we step out of the trenches and breathe in different air.

But at this stage of the 30-60-90 day plan, you can do that.   

One of the pitfalls of running a team — being responsible for team’s and your own personal goals — is that there is little time to grow your knowledge outside of your focused domain. 

If you work in Marketing, your first 60 days will be exclusively focused on learning about current campaigns, content, activation, agency partnerships etc. In Sales, you focus on their core products and services, key customers and their challenges etc.

It can help you to find time to build knowledge of other business groups and understand their processes and place in the business. 

You might find that this opens up opportunities to work together with others and can support your own team’s goals and yours as well. This is certainly an area you can cultivate as you develop in your role.

Because no man - or team - is an island.

Look up every now and then and shake some hands with other managers and collaborate where you can to meet your collective goals.

Step up

Things to do: Days 61 to 90

  • Lead a team meeting and have your boss attend.
  • Set time aside to evaluate your first 60 days.
  • Identify a project, programme through which you can drive improvements and implement your ideas with your team.
  • Continue to put time aside to focus, reflect and plan.
  • Sit and appreciate your journey from 1 to 90 days! 

This is the point where you can truly step forward and begin to assert yourself as a leader. 

The first 60 days are about learning the ropes. That time gave you the strong foundation on which you can step up - you are aligned with your boss, have connections with your team, understand what makes them tick and where improvements can be made, and also have established bonds with peers across the company. 

Ideally, the relationships built over the previous 60-day period will have evolved; your understanding of your team and your boss will have matured, and everyone should be pointing in the same direction.

The way we see it, you will now likely have confidence now to suggest new ways of working and assume your position as a leader.

With the trust you have built with your team - and your manager - you can start to stamp your mark on the team and lead them towards a collaborative, productive and fruitful future.

This is the implementation phase, where you will undertake concrete measures with your team, monitor their consistent implementation, and ask for feedback.

30-60-90: A commitment and a guide

We have covered a lot of ground here.

The first 100 days of management are never easy. However, getting off to a strong start will enhance your chances of success and ensure you are welcomed as a new high performer from an early stage.

It’s good to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no rewards for flipping the script and trying to make immediate changes in the 30 days. Equally, don’t wait long to build those key relationships that will help you in your role. 

Try to remember that a 30-60-90-day plan is not designed to overwhelm you or pressure you to meet certain objectives. It is more of a commitment, or road map, to guide you through the early stages of a new role. And as you continue on that journey Krauthammer is right beside you every step of the way with the tools and ideas to help you succeed.

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