By Wendy Goldstein, Fuqua marketing and communications staff
Fuqua’s Cross Continent MBA students travel to international residencies where they learn from top business leaders in the region. Recently I joined the class of 2015 during for their studies in New Delhi.
During my visit I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by Raj Jain, the CEO of The Times Group of India, who took time out of his busy schedule to speak candidly to our students about his first 100 days as CEO. The Times Group of India is a multimedia conglomerate that besides newspaper, has successfully entered the TV, radio, internet and outdoor spaces.
Jain comes from a strong consumer goods and marketing background having had leadership roles at Walmart India and Whirlpool India, among others. So a few months ago when he took the reins at the 175-year-old Times Group, he did so without any media industry expertise. Reflecting on his first 100 days, Jain spoke about how he considers the first 30 to 60 as his golden period. During this time, he began to envision where he would take the company and the talent and leadership he would need to bring in to get there.
I left Jain’s keynote address with a few takeaways that new leaders sometimes overlook.
- When you bring in new management, it’s always wise to blend the old with the new. You want to have historical knowledge of the company and its customers, but you also want to mix in new people with fresh ideas.
- First impressions are your most important. Before meeting with customers and other outside groups, you really need to know your business and its people. Therefore, try to avoid external distractions in the early going. Be it media, community or other such invites, it’s OK to say ‘no’ initially and allow time to focus on understating the internal dynamics.
- When scaling your business, you should get the unit model right before you replicate it. Otherwise you’ll multiply your mistakes.
- When you begin working at a new company, you should always leave room for change because you’ll never know everything in your first 100 days.
- Get to know your board because that is a place you can have frank conversations.
- Execution is everything and building this skill is critical to a successful career.
- And finally, humility is a very important characteristic for a CEO.
A CEO’s first 100 days seem to be a time of great learning, a time to build consensus and a time for figuring out how to successfully lead your company. But according to Jain, it is still a time when humility allows you to say “I don’t know, I’m new.”