A few years back, I quit a senior role at a communications agency without having another job lined up before I did so. We needn’t go into the exact circumstances that led to me quitting, but suffice to say I’d had enough.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was an email, sent to me in error one evening. Funny how small and insignificant occurrences can have such a big impact, isn’t it?
The next day, I walked into my boss’ office, email in hand, and resigned. Some called it brave, some called it risky, some called it stupid. I think my wife called it all three, given we had a small child at the time. (We still have the child; she’s just not so small now.)
I’ve since thought about what went wrong at that agency and why it didn’t work out. Not with any sense of regret as leaving was absolutely the right decision to make, but with a sense of wanting to understand better so that I might learn from it.
And something I’ve read about since has stuck with me and is not only guiding me in my new independent consultant status, but was actually part of my thought process in setting up the way I have done.
The 100 Days Rule
There is a theory in leadership called the 100 Days Rule. The concept says that in any new job or role, a leader has 100 days to make an impact. The consequence of not doing so could mean, at best, not meeting expectations within the first 12 months and, at worst, the person either leaving or being fired.
The 100 Days Rule can be traced back as far as Napoleon. In 1815, it took him 100 days to return from exile, reclaim power in France and wage war against the English. Well, 100 days ‘ish’.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You’ll never bring as much value to something new, whether that’s a new project or a completely new job in a completely new company, as you do in the early stages. New ideas, new thinking, new approaches, new insights…they all manifest in the first three months. After that time, you start to become, to one degree or another, a part of the wallpaper. You start to normalise. It’s standard group dynamics stuff.
For me, new projects are an exciting time. There’s often a challenging and intense learning curve and a balance between strategic priorities and task-driven activity.
There are usually new relationships to build and sometimes legacy issues to address. And there’s always a clash between moving too quickly without considering everything and moving too slowly and not getting the job done.
Consultancy work of the type I am currently undertaking maximises the impact of the 100 Day Rule. A three month project to get under the skin of a client; analyse data; devise a strategy; commence the tactical implementation; test, learn, evaluate and hone the strategy; and then provide a detailed handover allows me to make a real impact in a relatively short space of time.
It also plays to my core strengths and enables me to invest time in what gives me energy. In return, that produces better results for my clients, who get a (relatively) intense burst of concentration, ideas and focus.
As such, this points to one of the core benefits of employing specialist freelancers to work on specific projects rather than agencies on a retained basis or, in certain circumstances, employees.
As long as you do your due diligence with the consultant(s) in question, it can be a win/win for all parties.
So back to that job I quit a few years back; what has the 100 Days Rule taught me?
Well, I’ve learned to accept responsibility for my own part in it not working out. In those pivotal first three months my first baby was born and I was closing down a previous business endeavour. So aside from other factors that were not my responsibility, I probably wasn’t as invested in the job as I could have been.
I’ve made myself a promise now that I’m an independent consultant. I will always be completely and, if I need to be, brutally honest with my clients. I will never, ever take on a project that I can’t give 100%.
In fact, I’ve already turned work down that, although I could have made time for, I didn’t feel I could give proper attention.
So if you work with me, you’ll always get all of me; an opinion (sorry), challenging ideas (sorry) and flowery shirts (especially, sorry).