More and more final candidates for senior roles are being asked to present their 100-day action plans as part of the interview process. The question is an obvious test that has a hidden trick in it. Shame on you if you walk into a late round interview without a plan for what you are going to do leading up to and through your first 100 days. And shame on you if your plan is all about you.

In a world in which 40% of new leaders fail in their first 18 months, hiring organizations are realizing that it’s no longer good enough to hire the right leader. They have to help with executive onboarding. This is all about helping new leaders prepare in advance, manage their message and build their teams. It all starts with a plan.

Lincoln knew it wasn’t enough to win the war. We had to “finish the work” and secure “a just, and a lasting peace.”

Conversely, Barack Obama looked back on “failing to plan for the day after” the 2011 toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as his “worst mistake.”

It’s not enough to win the war. It’s not enough to bring down the dictator. It’s not enough to get the job. You need a “plan for the day after” and after and after. You know this. The people interviewing you for your next senior leadership role know this. That’s why more and more of them are asking final candidates for 100-day plans.

It’s a trap. No one cares about you. No one cares about how you’re going to ease into your role the day after they do in the old dictator. All they care about what you’re going to do for them.

This is why you need to have a 100-day action plan ready to share and why going beyond the question asked to what matters most to the person asking the question is going to be the difference between your plan and the second place candidate’s plan. The key pieces of your plan should include:

1. Clarify their objectives. This may be the most important idea. Framing your thinking within the context of their objectives changes it from what you’re going to do to what you’re going to do to help them achieve what they want to achieve.

2. Lay out what you and your new team must do to move towards those objectives. This is where your framing starts to pay off. You are suggesting your team is part of the greater whole and should play its part in moving the greater whole forward. Who’s going to argue with that? The choice of where to focus is an important one. It’s not critical that you get this exactly right. It is critical that the logic behind your choices makes sense to the people interviewing you. Thus, take the time to think this through.

3. Lay out what you must do over your first 100-days to get that started right. Now you’re ready to answer the question asked. The way it’s positioned in the context of the first two points will be dramatically different and better.


Key components should include:

• Approach: Given the context, culture and risk profile, how you will time your pivot from converging to evolving.

• Stakeholder: up, across and down.

• Message: Core headline and communication points.

• Before “Day One”: Get your new boss’s input into the final plan and then jump-start key relationships, learning and set up.

• Day One/Early Days: Specific start up actions, meetings, visits.

• 100-Day Building Blocks: Set the burning imperative, put in place milestone management, jump-start early wins, sort team roles, and drive ongoing two-way communication.