The Next 100 Days

Jan 08, 2021


Extreme arrogance, information bias, and poor communication caused Napoleon Bonaparte to meet his Waterloo. What can we learn from his mistakes?

Congratulations to those who are starting new jobs this month! We’ve been rooting for you and now-- the first 100 days. Actually, we all have the next 100 hundred days. Before we find out what you are doing with yours, a little history. The phrase first 100 days comes to us from the French by way of Napoleon Bonaparte. It refers to the “period of 1815 between [his] return to Paris from exile on the island of Elba and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo”.1 Ok, so not a good start to the first first 100, what can we learn from Emperor Bonaparte’s Waterloo?

In addition to Bonaparte’s poor health, he was overconfident and underestimated his foe, Lord Wellington. He ignored his own brother’s report of an impending alliance between Wellington’s British troops and Field Marshal Blucher’s Prussian troops. Bonaparte failed to communicate downstream with Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy. Then, the uninformed Grouchy dismissed sound advice because it was poorly presented, and he insisted on following Bonaparte’s last order-- even though he heard “sounds of battle”.2 

Avoid the same mistakes and pursue the following during your next 100 days:

  1. Input: Don’t assume you have all the answers. The morning of defeat, Bonaparte boasted, “We have ninety chances in our favor, and not ten against us!”2 Had he listened more and bragged less, his army may have prevailed. What input is needed for the best decisions? We need to know what will make our team successful.
  2. Stakeholders: Don’t assume stakeholders are in the boxes closest to yours on the org chart. Stakeholders, those who have a vested interest in and potential impact on your success, are located in other departments and even outside the organization. What alliances exist? Which must you create? We need to know what will make them successful.
  3. Expectations: Don’t assume your job description is accurate or complete. It’s not about the job requisition submitted months ago, it’s about today’s expectations. The last order may be out-of-date or uninformed. What are the current hopes and needs of your role? We need to know what will make us successful.

Meet your Waterloo! The next 100 hundred days, in a new job or not, should be difficult to master. If it were easy, someone else would have already crossed them off the calendar! Leaders rise to the challenge, leverage past experience, and rally the troops for a good fight! Arrogance, ignoring input, and poor communication all contributed to Bonaparte’s demise. What might contribute to your demise? What will make your next 100 days successful for you, your stakeholders, and your team?

Ready to plan out your next 100 days? Take the FREE Circuit Training Assessment at Our Leadership Gym and let’s get started!

Sources: History: Fast Facts on the “First 100 Days”, 2 North Alabama Historical Review: Napoleon Meets His Waterloo: An Examination of Mistakes Related to the Battle.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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