What do Pilates and A New Role Have In Common?
If you’re familiar with that beast of a Pilates exercise, the One Hundred, you’ll know how excruciating it can be. You lie flat on your back, legs up in the air, chin off the ground and pat your hands downwards to the rhythm of your breath. You do this 100 times, feeling your tummy muscles scream, your arms start to tire and your legs beg for a rest as you attempt to co-ordinate holding everything tight in all the right places while you inhale and exhale in the right way. As they say, it’s painful but effective.
In fact, the only time I have ever smiled about it was when I realised its similarity to another one hundred: those first one hundred days in a new leadership role.
I’m currently working with a number of anxious clients who have one thing in common: they are in the early days of a new role and feeling the pressure. It’s an interesting and vulnerable place to be, and the concept of the “first 100 Days” has grown up around it.
I decided to look at the phenomenon in more detail and question for myself whether all the hoo hah around these first three months really is a reality, or something that has been created by leadership gurus and authors.
Let’s start by looking at the concept of those first 100 days. What it is about? It’s a term that was used to describe Franklin Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office when he made sweeping changes and implemented big projects, most notably the New Deal. Since then it has been a term, no indeed a measurement, on which President is judged. From there, it has made its way into management and leadership speak, spawned hundreds of thousands of books and articles, and become an entity in its own right.
Whether the organisation places pressure or not, my clients are feeling it. There is pressure from within to make a mark, to prove that they are the right person for the role and that the faith put in them will not go amiss. Metaphorically, they are holding it together whilst they work through the one hundred.
Just like in the middle of the one hundred where the slightest loss of concentration can send you into a crumpled mess on the mat, my clients are feeling vulnerable. It may be a new company with a new culture to take on. At the least it will be all the new responsibilities of a new role. They may have left friends behind or they may be coping with the fall-out of a merger. Even if they have chosen this role, they are not yet assimilated into the organisation. They don’t even know if they are speaking to right people and are feeling vulnerable.
Similar to the need to have the perfect from for the One Hundred, my clients are struggling with doing new things properly and all at once.
As with those screaming, tired muscles, they are feeling the pressure of their first three months in many forms. It may be external expectations, or it could just as likely come from within.
They may feel as though they are looking everywhere, at everyone, but not quite sure where they should be focusing their attention.
How to Get Through Those 100 Days
As with any exercise, you will become more competent with the One Hundred the more you do it, and the same goes for your first 100 days. It may not feel like it at first but time will help you settle you in, meanwhile, here are some observations and pieces of advice that I have shared with my own clients:
- Do remember that even though we may hate showing vulnerability, it does bring people towards you
- You could look at your first few weeks as a time of grace rather than pressure: time to learn about the organisation and culture
- When anxiety flares up take a break. Go for a walk on your lunch break, connect with people over a coffee, do some breathing exercises in the bathroom
- Think smalls steps rather than big sweeping moves at the beginning, and you won’t trigger people’s fear of change
- Have that discussion. What are the organisation’s expectations of your first few months? Rather than think the worst, ask
- You don’t have to do everything. Convert everyone on your team to manage the strategic goal and make it a shared mission
- Create your plan of action for those 100 day. Include clear milestones and points for recognition or celebration
- Keep tabs on your mindset. If you think it’s going to be difficult, it will be
- Remember that even if your neck is hurting from looking around, you are still in the best position to see the organisation in an objective way, before you too become assimilated
- A good Pilates instructor will get you into the right position and encourage you along the way. A coach will do the same for you, helping you maintain momentum and keep you focused and upbeat.