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Kamala Harris’ first 100 days

| May 4, 2021

by Kathy Pletcher

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Kathy Pletcher, MOR Associates Leadership Coach.  Kathy may be reached at [email protected]]
The inauguration of Kamala Harris to the office of Vice President was a breakthrough for women, especially women of color and daughters of immigrants.  She is the first woman, first black woman and first southeast Asian women to be elected to the second highest office in the U.S.  In her inaugural address Vice President Harris said: “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees this as a country of possibilities.”
It has become a tradition going back to FDR to take measure of the first 100 days of a new administration.  The 100-day metric is valuable for creating a sense of urgency and momentum.   Vice President Harris acknowledged there was “hard work, good work” ahead: “fight the pandemic and save lives; rebuild the economy so it works for everyone; root out systemic racism; address the climate crisis and unify the country.”   Identifying important strategic goals builds confidence and trust in the leaders.  While most of us are not in the spotlight in such high level positions, the 100-day metric can be a useful framework when starting a new role or on-boarding a new staff member.
How might you apply the 100-day metric when starting a new job/role?  In consultation with your supervisor, ask yourself:  What do I need to focus on in my first 30 days, my second 30 days and my third 30 days?    Using this framework, identify the two or three most important things to focus on. Don’t get caught up in familiar and trivial tasks.  Stretch and challenge yourself. At the end of each month, take stock of your progress and readjust priorities (if needed.) While each person’s objectives will vary, here are some suggested action steps for having an impactful first 100 days.

  1. Establish a positive presence.   Be intentional about the image you want to project from day one. Think about how you show up and how you engage others.  Be aware of your body language. Are you making eye contact? Are you leaning in to the conversation?   Are you actively listening and responding with positive energy? How are you showing that you care about what others think?  Having a positive presence builds your credibility and leads to stronger relationships.
  2. Be intentional about building relationships.  Create a meet and greet list of who you need to know, and build time in your calendar for introductory conversations.  Inquire about their work and focus on understanding them rather than talking about yourself.  Building relationships requires investing time with people. If you ignore relationship building you may be working on the wrong problems or producing work that is not impactful to the organization.  Building trusting relationships truly pays off in accomplishing your goals and exercising influence. 
  3. Seek feedback.  As you build relationships this is a good opportunity to seek honest feedback from your new colleagues.  How are you coming across to them?  Do they have any suggestions for enhancing your presence? Can they suggest ways you could be more effective?  Be sure to let them know you consider feedback to be a gift that helps you grow.  And, of course, say “Thank You!” when they offer feedback. 
  4. Set your initial development plan.  This should include learning what the expectations are; assessing the staff and resources you have; understanding the value of what you have, the liabilities and gaps you must fill to succeed. Identify two or three challenges you can address in your first 100 days. The goals should be impactful and visible. Discuss with your supervisor to ensure support.  At the end of the 100 days, report on your accomplishments and their benefits.

The 100-day metric framework is also useful when on-boarding a new employee. Too often employees are left to figure it out for themselves. Help the employee think through how to focus time and energy in the first 30 days, the second 30 days, and the third 30 days. Working collaboratively, you and your employee should create a plan to help ensure meaningful contributions as early as possible. Here are some action steps you can take to ensure a good start.

  1. Establish expectations and initial goals.  Don’t overload the person.  Think about the most important things this person needs to understand.  It is better to focus on two or three goals that can be accomplished in the first three months. This will build the employee’s confidence and credibility.  Provide a list of people the employee should get to know in the first month.
  2. Seek and provide feedback.  Weekly check-ins are helpful in guiding the new employee.  Ask questions and listen to both the content and emotions behind the responses. Often people will say they are doing fine when they actually need help. Ask open ended questions that encourage longer responses: What is going well?  What are you struggling with?  What could I do to help?  When giving feedback be specific, descriptive, and timely.  Allow time for the person to process the feedback and discuss at a later time.  These conversations will help establish a trusting relationship.
  3. Explain the political and cultural landscape. The political landscape is about how power is distributed and shared within the organization.  You can review the organizational chart. It is also important is to talk about the informal power structure.  All organizations have “power brokers” who have influence but not a formal position of authority.  Understanding who the influencers are can be very helpful to a new employee.  It takes time to learn the culture of an organization.  As a supervisor you can coach a new employee on how to understand and navigate the culture effectively.

How has Vice President Harris focused her time and energy in her first 100 days?  In consultation with President Biden, Harris identified foreign policy and foreign relations as an area of growth. Prior to being elected to the Senate her political career was focused on domestic issues. She recognized the importance of growing her expertise in international affairs and has been intentional and strategic about building relationships.  Harris set up weekly meetings with the Secretary of State and built a team of national security advisors. She initiated conversations with key world leaders.  Harris has also met with the World Health Organization’s Director General to discuss the U.S. role in the global Covid-19 response and she has twice addressed the United Nations.   Vice President Harris has made significant progress on her stretch challenge in her first 100 days laying the foundation for future success.
Whether you are starting a new role, onboarding a new employee, or wanting to “up your game” for the next 100 days what is the stretch challenge that you will commit to?