Simon Jones of Hidden Value Partners writes about the challenges and choices facing leaders during their first hundred days in post.
The clock is ticking for London’s new Mayor, Sadiq Khan. It’s too early to judge him on his election promises, but initial judgements – on style, direction and actions – are often done on a new appointment’s first 100 days. Khan’s was on 24 August – and there ends my politics.
The same expectations and judgements are made of a new CEO, company owner or boardroom chair. But beware, for it can be tempting to rush into a new job, and be impatient for change – in particular if you are coming in after a crisis. Quite often however, people believe their ‘fresh eyes’ will find ‘new solutions’. It is a common syndrome, and an easy mistake to make. After all, will your ideas actually be that new and original? What will be the impact of having over hasty ideas on your relations with long-standing directors, senior managers and employees? And actually, do you know what is really going on beyond the boardroom?
So, my advice is ditch those rapid impressions and off-the-shelf solutions. Instead, look right in front of you, at the staff – who are a more pertinent and thought-through source of ideas. They will have years of experience, and ideas that were unheard, untried or ignored by the former management – what we call ‘hidden value’ of a business.
By interviewing carefully selected representative of all staff levels of a company – especially below the main Board level, in-depth and in a positive way, with the Board retaining ownership of the exercise – new insights will be listened to, and forgotten ideas reawakened. It is a skilled exercise and requires highly qualified interviewers; and staff need to be met somewhere confidential, away from the workplace, so there are no time pressures and they are reassured their comments will be welcomed.
Yes, you got it, it’s a bit like ITV’s Undercover Boss – only you use skilled interviewers, not camera lenses. Also, once the interview results are collated you supplement it with business and market analysis. And the results are spectacular. As well as for new appointments it can be used where there is a failing company subsidiary or division; during a business turnaround or restructuring; or, the case of redundancies, to capture insights before ‘core intelligence’ leaves.
This ‘Hidden Value Inquiry’ approach can expose the unrealised insights and value in a company, creating opportunities that were previously invisible. It changes the game. It can offer new views and vistas on familiar landscapes. It can enable turnaround, recovery and growth. As for your first 100 days, it avoids some of the trapdoors when new in post.