From Data to Commercial: The First 100 Days, Part Two

From Data to Commercial: The First 100 Days, Part Two

It is a truth not universally acknowledged, that people rarely reflect on their first 100 days on the job. Yet despite the temptation to simply plough ahead, it can be valuable looking back. In part one, I considered some of the challenges I had faced since starting my new job, particularly given my move into a commercial role. Today, in part two, I am considering a simpler question: how do you know if you are doing a good job in your new role?

Arguably, given the prevalence of three-month notice periods, if you have made it this far you are doing a good enough job. Also, in our quantitive society, it is tempting to assume that simply because you are busy, you are successful. You are receiving so many meeting invitations, clearly you must be adding value. Yet, the opposite is often true. I therefore propose four criteria to help understand whether you are making a difference in your role.

Firstly, as a senior executive your job is to build a robust organisation; this starts with your leadership team. If you find yourself unable to delegate, what does this say about your ability to attract and develop the right type of talent? Instead of therefore looking at the volume of meetings you are attending, perhaps a better measure of success is Delegation. Are you comfortable doing so with the team you have in place? If not, who are you recruiting?

Instead of worrying about the individual threads, consider the whole. Photo by Kate McLean.

The next question then is what you delegate, or in a broader sense, what your teams should be working on. This Direction includes prioritisation, communication, and planning. The digital customer landscape is evolving so quickly that without clear direction, your organisation will be unlikely to have a material impact. Reflecting on my own progress, I am comforted that while there is a lot to be done, there is now a clear path ahead of us; jointly defined.

Another key aspect is culture, and not in a passive sense. In a transformation it is about collectively creating a Discipline around new ways of working. The duality of the term is fitting, both in terms of creating and codifying new expertise within the organisation, as well as instilling the right types of behaviours. For example, it is not enough for teams to understand that digital trading is always-on – they need to live it hour by hour, without fail.

Finally, let us not forget the importance of being able to present evidence of progress. Delivery of new teams, products, campaigns, programs ... it matters less what it is as long as there is something meaningful to show. Note, these deliverables do not always have to be quick wins, as long as they have a well defined commercial impact. Few things are as frustrating as seeing a leader fail to deliver anything but rhetoric during their first 100 days.

Profound quote about seeing things from a different perspective. Photo by Michael Dziedzic.

Delegation. Direction. Discipline. Delivery. What these four points all have in common is trust – both from you as well as your team. If there is no trust, these efforts will be hollow at best and toxic at worst. Think of leaders who fail to set clear goals, or who hold employees' mistakes over them. While I will not rehash my previous post on the importance of listening, suffice to say that this trust is not earned overnight. Yet there are ways to expedite this.

One of the best ways to build trust during any transformation is to ask people for their input. This will not only make people feel heard but give you the opportunity to course-correct. I should note that 4Ds aside, one of the best feedback mechanisms is ... asking for feedback! That said, remember that digital leadership roles often exist to challenge the organisation. As a 15th century monk once said: you cannot please all of the people all of the time.

As with most of life's endeavours, starting is often the most difficult part. Being able to make the early months count in a new role is often of critical importance to future success. Yet, at the risk of seeming disingenuous, arguably the most important step it ensuring that this practice of reflection is maintained throughout the months and years ahead. In the meantime, I hope these 4Ds provide a useful touchstone for others taking on new challenges.

– Ryan