So how should you prepare for the transition and the first 100 days?
Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program how you should prepare.
“When you take office at any level you take an oath to the Constitution and to the country. Use that oath as your northern star,” said Fox.
Guide to Transition – Boston Consulting Group
Michèle Flournoy, the former undersecretary of defense policy, and Margaret Spellings, a
former secretary of education, have written an article, “The First 100 Days in Government,” that
includes valuable tips on how leaders can get things done in government.
1. Know yourself and prepare. As soon as you are tapped for a position, take stock of your
strengths, weaknesses and leadership style. Be thoughtful about how you intend to fulfill this
new role and what you will need to be successful. Begin to develop a sense of what you want to
accomplish. In addition, identify a few trusted advisers who will tell you what you need to hear,
not just what you want to hear and will keep you from living in “the bubble.”
2. Know your organization. Once in office, take time to understand the mission, roles, work
and people in your organization and what makes it tick. It’s important to engage not only your
direct reports, but also frontline staff. Ask hard questions and identify trusted information
sources at various levels of the organization. Understand your resources and how they are
allocated and also be aware of important cycles such as the budget process and the congressional
3. Understand your ecosystem. Map your larger “ecosystem” to identify who your customer is
as well as your most important external stakeholders, such as White House staff, the Office of
Management and Budget, counterparts in other agencies and key members of Congress or their
staff. Reach out to them early to get an “outside-in view” of your organization as well as their
candid assessment of the organization and its performance. Over time, invest in building these
relationships to provide you with valuable feedback and to get things done.
4. “It’s a team sport!” Building a strong, cohesive and effective leadership team is your highest
priority. As a new appointee, you may find yourself a relative latecomer “joining the party,”
and inherit a team you did not choose, so it’s important that you spend time getting to know
your team and assessing whether you need to make any changes. As your leadership team takes
shape, be clear about how you see their roles and responsibilities; how decisions will be made;
how you expect them to support you and to work together; and how they can expect you to hold them accountable. Then empower them to the maximum extent possible. It is also critical to
5. Set your agenda and drive it forward. Start working with your leadership team to
immediately to define your mission and objectives, set priorities and develop an initial agenda.
Keep a running list of potential quick wins as well as the things you want to change over time. If
something small can be fixed right away, do it. Early, visible improvements will send a positive
signal and build your credibility.
6. Create a positive organizational culture. Be explicit about your values and management
style – how you will treat others, how you want them to treat you, and how you expect them to
treat each other. Some best practices to consider: Praise in public, criticize in private. Decide
early how you are going to behave on the worst of days, and then try your hardest not to behave
6. Communicate, communicate … and then communicate again! As a new leader, it is
virtually impossible to communicate too much with your organization. Develop a compelling
narrative of where you want to take the organization and how you plan to engage them on the
journey. Tell the story again and again in forums such as meetings, internal messages or your
For additional resources check out Michael Watkins book, “The First 90 Days.” Watkins is a noted expert on leadership transitions, offers proven strategies for moving successfully into a new role at any point in one’s career. Concise and practical, The First 90 Days walks managers through every aspect of the transition, from mental preparation to forging the right alliances to securing critical early wins. Through vivid examples of success and failure at all levels, Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls new leaders encounter and provides tools and strategies for how to avoid them.