Many leaders fall into the trap of thinking that leadership begins on Day One of a new job. But everything new leaders do and say and don’t do and don’t say sends powerful signals, starting well before they even walk in the door on Day One. Follow six steps to jump-start your approach, stakeholders, message, relationships, set up and 100-day action plan. If you embrace this concept and do something about it, you increase your chances of success. This one idea can make or break a new leader’s transition.

This bonus time between acceptance and start is the Fuzzy Front End. It often comes at the worst possible time, interfering with the last days of an old job, time earmarked for taking a vacation, catching up with personal errands postponed for too long, or just unwinding a little before the big day.

Jayme Check, one of the co-authors of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan puts it this way: “The good news is that, more often than not, the key elements of the Fuzzy Front End can be addressed in relatively short order. Even so, strive to stretch out the time between acceptance and your start date and get as much done as you can. This is the only opportunity you’ll ever have to create extra time and a strategic pause before stepping into your new role.” (Request an executive summary of the book.)

Follow six steps to jump-start your approach, stakeholders, message, relationships, set up and 100-day action plan:


1. Approach. Identify the need for change and the readiness for change. The context you’re facing determines how fast you should move. (Need for change.) The current culture determines how fast and effectively you can move. (Readiness for change.) The key question is: How significantly and how fast does the organization need to change given its business environment, history and recent performance?

2. Stakeholders. Identify your key stakeholders. These are the people who can have the most impact on your success in your new role. Many transitioning executives fail to think through this process or look in only one direction to find their key stakeholders. Others make the mistake of treating everyone the same and end up trying to please all of them.

3. Message. Craft your entry message. Before you start talking to any of your stakeholders, you’ll want to clarify your initial message.

4. Relationships. Jumpstart key relationships and accelerate your learning. These two items work hand in hand. You achieve this by conducting prestart meetings and phone calls now, before you start. The impact you can make by reaching out to critical stakeholders before you start is incalculable.

5. Set up. Manage your personal and office set-up well before Day One. No matter how much you try, you cannot give the new job your best efforts until you get comfortable about your family’s and your own setup..

6. Plan your Day One, early days and first 100 days. There is a lot to learn in the Fuzzy Front End. The tools presented in this chapter will guide you along the way; but they are not designed to be all-inclusive. Instead, think of this process as a starting point for your entry into your new role. If you follow the process to this point, you will have completed a reasonably in-depth dive into your new organization’s people, plans, practices, and purpose.


During the Fuzzy Front End, you should:

  1. Determine your leadership approach given the context and culture you face.
  2. Identify key stakeholders up, down and across.
  3. Craft your entry message using current best thinking.
  4. Jump-start key relationships and accelerate your learning.
  5. Manage your personal and office setup.
  6. Plan your Day One, early days and first 100 days.

Although this approach is generally applicable, there are some important differences in certain situations such as getting promoted from within, managing a merger, acquisition or reorganization or making an international move.

Read about the next step in a new leader’s 100-day action plan: Take Control of Day One When Onboarding into a New Job.