The point in time when you step into a new leadership role is simultaneously exciting and uncomfortable. And, it’s easy to misfire with the first-impressions you form of your new team members. Your start-up as the new boss is the early-awkward phase for everyone involved.
From your vantage point as the new boss:
Some individuals will seek to engage with you and curry favor immediately. You’ll feel like they’re everywhere, sharing their opinions and ideas. And, it’s easy to get caught in the noise-trap where you begin to assume those talking the most are the ones with the most valuable things to say.
Others are happy to whisper in your ear and point out all the flaws in the current working environment, including the people who have to go.
And still, others will linger quietly in the background, waiting to see what you’re all about in this role.
Everyone’s actions are distorted.
No one knows what to expect from you as the new boss.
You’re not sure about them.
For everyone involved, the issue is trust. Until trust emerges, performance remains elusive.
Six Steps to Help You Start Strong with Your New Team
1. Flex Your Communication Approach
Instead of leading with an open-door policy espoused by so many managers, flex your communication approach to their needs. You go to them. Do so immediately, and don’t let the noisy ones crowd out your calendar for those lingering just off-stage.
2. Shut Down the Political Whisperers
It’s an important tell of a person’s character when they comfortably throw team members under the bus. Don’t doubt they’ll do this to you when it’s expedient. Instead of engaging at their level, drive the focus to performance and collaboration. “Unless you have a point that is material to us delivering on our commitments, I don’t want to know your opinion of Brad.”
3. Change Where They Are Looking
Shift the focus off of you and on to the team and the environment. Challenge individuals and the group to identify how to do more of what works and repair or eliminate what doesn’t. (I use my 3Ws process to get the group focused on the environment.) The faster you get the team collaborating on strengthening the environment around communication, processes, and other vital areas, the better you can assess talent.
4. Offer Critical Context for the Work Ahead
Educate and translate. Most groups and individuals lack context for their work and how it connects to the bigger picture. Spend time working with your boss to understand better how your team’s work relates to larger goals and strategies. Work constantly to reinforce this connectivity to the bigger picture.
5. Engage with Enthusiasm and Curiosity
Your energy is contagious and your enthusiasm for the work of individuals and the group is rocket fuel for performance. Praise what you see that is good. Seek input for areas requiring improvement. And empower individuals to make immediate changes that eliminate inefficiencies.
6. Don’t Skip this Step!
Write the rules for success with your team. Effectively, you challenge the group to create the values that are essential for working in this environment. I always seed the conversation with my starter value, describing what accountability must mean for everyone involved.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
I love the start-up phase of leading a new team, but I’ve done it dozens of times and learned from my mistakes. It’s a journey of discovery for new people, new challenges, and ultimately searching for the keys to creating a healthy environment. Be proactive in how you engage with others. Resist the tendency to form fast impressions from how people choose to deal with you. And take yourself and your mission to them and ask for help.