Recently, I was chatting with a friend of mine who was starting with a new company and managing a brand new team. She was a little nervous because she had a history of management challenges, and she wanted to make a smooth transition as the leader of a new team. I assured her that she could do it, but I could hear the anxiety in her voice.
If you or anyone you know has recently transitioned to leading a new team, here are five rules to abide by to ensure the transition is smooth for all involved.
Rule No. 1: Build relationships first.
I cannot emphasize this enough. A leader who first focuses on building relationships with each member of their team will be more successful both in the short term and long term. How should you go about doing this? Set a recurring time on your calendar to meet individually with team members. This works to solidify the relationship early on and helps maintain the connection over time.
When you are sitting with your team members, find out about them as people inside and outside of work. Ask them what keeps them up at night. Find out what makes them most excited about coming to work. Always set time aside to talk to them. Don’t look at your time together as an accountability session. Rather, view it as a time to build a deeper relationship. Believe me, with this as your focus, you will achieve most all business outcomes with ease.
Rule No. 2: Solicit feedback, and listen intently.
New leaders often want to make a positive impression on their new boss and their new team. So, they go about making changes without taking the time to solicit feedback. This is the worst thing any new team leader can do. You will impress more people by asking for their insights on the current state of things and listening intently to what they say.
Remember, we all want to know that we matter. We all want to feel important. Every single one of us wants to know that our words mean something to those around us.
Rule No. 3: Show them who you are.
When you first begin to interact with your team and other co-workers, it’s less important to recite your resume and more important to show them what you are made of. They are all sizing you up anyway. So, why not seize opportunities to tell stories that illustrate your value system and how you intend to add value to the organization? Better yet, show them by your actions.
I recall an interaction I had with both my manager and a team member within the first week of starting as a new team leader in a brand new role. I was leading the customer experience for a large organization. My team member made a decision that conflicted with one of her co-workers’ regarding a customer issue. My manager became aware of it and took the opportunity to pass the issue over to me to “handle.”
I knew that this was my first test. My new team was waiting to see how I would handle it. My new boss was also watching from afar. I went down to speak with the team member involved to make sure I understood the entire story. Then, I spoke to the leader of the other team. Once I made the rounds, I quickly decided that our team would retreat on the issue, as it did not benefit our customers to take our current position.
In that instant, my team member understood how I worked. She discovered that I am a fair and balanced decision maker. I took the time to listen to her perspective and those on the other side of the conflict. Taking the emotion out of the situation, I quickly landed on a position. I let her see who I was. There were many opportunities like that to show rather than tell. To this day, she values my transparency.
Rule No. 4: Be slow to change.
Many new leaders make the mistake of trying to quickly “put their stamp on” their new territory. When they institute change so quickly after leading a new team, their people are left anxious and worried about how the change impacts them.
Take the time to investigate any changes you are considering before you make them. Ask around and sit quietly in meetings to take in all that is around you. Be slow to change. After investigating, you may discover that very little change is needed.
Rule No. 5: Include others in the change.
After you have investigated potential changes to your new workplace, be sure to include others in the process. Leading a new team brings doubts and mistrust on both sides. To shorten this cycle of mistrust, the best leaders gather feedback, increase transparency and make sure to help their new team members feel like valuable contributors to any positive changes that impact the team itself.
How should you go about doing this? Talk to your team about any gaps you might see in the current process or system. Don’t leave them out from the brainstorming process. You will not believe the type of results you can achieve with your new team.
It can be stressful for both new managers and teams when entering a new relationship. As the new leader, you get to choose how you want your team members to feel when you walk through the halls of the new workplace. By building relationships first, soliciting and responding to feedback, showing them your value system, being slow to change, and including your new team members in change or improvement initiatives, you can ensure that this new stage in your leadership journey is a smooth one.
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