Generally, your most important work relationship is with your boss. Going into a new role, the sooner you can figure out how to work with them, the better. How they react to the plan you prepare to guide what you do before and through your first 100-days tells you whether they intend to control you, let you run free, or partner with you.

100-Day Action Plan

A fundamental premise of this article is that, as an executive onboarding into a new role, you are going to create a 100-day action plan per the eight essential steps of executive onboarding.

Then, the first thing you should do with your 100-day action plan is to share it with your new boss.

Bosses react in one of three ways. They might say:

1)   “Don’t do that. We’ve got your onboarding under control. Relax and enjoy the time off until you start.”

That response suggests a boss with a bias to control. Expect them to give you clear direction. And know they will expect you to follow their direction with relatively few degrees of freedom. They tell. You comply. Command and control.

2)   “Good for you. Seems like a great plan.”

That suggests a bias to let you run your own show with them serving more as silent investors or absent landlords. You’ll have more degrees of freedom and not a lot of help. Freeing support.

3)   “Great progress. Got some thoughts for you…”

That’s the response of a partner working with you to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Shared responsibilities.

I’m not suggesting one approach is necessarily better than the other. As laid out in my article on what it takes to accelerate through a strategic point of inflection, command and control management is particularly appropriate for a production-focused organization, freeing support works for design-focused organizations, and shared responsibilities for delivery-focused ones.

In any case, this is a good data point on how your boss prefers to lead/manage. It’s valuable for you to know this as you’re building your relationship with your boss.

From the boss’s perspective

If you’re the boss, know that everything communicates. And understand the ABCs of behavioral change:


  • Antecedents prompt
  • Behavior which is encouraged or discouraged by
  • Consequences


How you react to your new subordinates’ new leader’s 100-day action plans is an important consequence to their preparing and sharing those plans. Even though different organizations require different types of leadership, there’s no question that telling them not to follow through on their plan is a negative consequence, partnering with them is a positive consequence, and letting them go their own way with a pat on the back could be either positive or negative.

Imagine I ask you to shake my hand. You likely will do that. We shake hands. I smile and say “Thank you.” I then ask you to do it again. You likely will do that as well.


  • Antecedent: My request.
  • Behavior: Shaking hands.
  • Consequence: Smile and thank you. (Positive)


Now imagine the same scenario except instead of smiling and saying “Thank you,” I take my other hand and punch you in the face. Most of you would be less likely to want to go through that again.


  • Antecedent: My request.
  • Behavior: Shaking hands.
  • Consequence: A punch in the face. (Negative)


The really scary thing is that so many managers reward positive behavior with an unintended punch in the face. Make sure you balance consequences to reward productive behavior and punish unproductive behavior – and not visa-versa.

If you’re going to reject someone’s new leader’s 100-day action plan, know you’re punishing their initiative. If you’re going to send them on their way with a pat on the back, understand how they will receive that message. And, if you’re going to partner with them, make sure your offer and message is received in the way you intended.