So, you have been promoted and you face the challenge of taking over a team which has been working together for some time.
It’s daunting! Either you are coming in from outside and you have no real clue how the team operates. Or, you have been promoted from within and you know everyone but as a colleague rather than as their team leader.
No matter how confident you are about your skills and the role you can play it is easy to mess up at the start. If you do it can take a long time to get back on track.
You can be successful from day one if you remember these five priorities.
2. Build Trust and Rapport
4. Plan for change
Engaging with your new team is your first task.
You need to do this with respect and dignity. Your new team are human beings and so should be treated with dignity regardless. But, also they have been on their own journey. Where they are right now is as a result of their personal journey and you must respect that.
Create a mutual sense of worth and show respect for their views, whilst engaging with your team collectively and as individuals.
Talk to people, find out what make them tick. Get to know what is important to them individually.
Be clear about what people can expect from YOU, as well as what you expect from them.
2. BUILD TRUST AND RAPPORT
Building trust is vital. Your new team needs to know that you have their backs.
Forget your assumptions. If you are coming into the organisation from outside, forget what you think you know about the people, their drivers, their strengths and weaknesses. Find out for yourself.
Remember, if you have been promoted from within you may have seen a side of them that they would not normally share with their team leader. Respect that.
Make sure the team know what you won’t do as well as what you will. Help them to understand where you are coming from.
Trust that your team know what they are doing. Assume the best of them.
3. UNDERSTAND YOUR NEW TEAM
Observe, learn, question — be curious. Get to understand the team as a collective and as individuals.
Spend some time in their work world. Sit alongside them and see what barriers they face, where things work well and where they don’t. Understand their individual working and learning styles
Find out what is important to the people in your team.
Identify the development opportunities and where skills are being under utilised.
4. PLAN FOR CHANGE
You are more than likely going to want to make a few changes. To do that successfully you need to have a plan and build the case for the change.
Help your new team to see your vision — to see where you are going and WHY.
Change for change sake is morale destroying and takes up the team’s energy. You don’t need to implement change to ‘put your stamp on things’.
Acknowledge the team’s history and each individual’s place in that history. Show respect for decisions made by your predecessors.
Explain the reasons for change and the consequences of not making it. Outline the opportunities for individuals as well as the team as a whole.
Involve the team in the plan — it needs to be their plan and not only yours. Be open to ideas and feedback.
Expect things to take longer to change than you might ideally like!
Your actions will speak louder than any of your words. How you behave evidences what you really mean.
As you start to understand how the team works, where changes might be necessary, where extra support is needed, you MUST take action.
Failure to follow through on your promises is the fast track to failing as a new leader.
Your team will quickly lose faith, and see through all your good words.
Rather than promise everything, establish the most important barriers the team face and work quickly to address some of those.
Where longer term plans are needed be sure to tell your team that, and how you intend to take things forward.
Celebrate successes as a team.
Accept when the change doesn’t work and be prepared to re-think.
Be open about the fact that everything may not work perfectly from day one.
Be visibly active.
Finally, be prepared to seek support for YOU. You are a human being too! At times you will doubt yourself. In your role it can be tough to cope with that because you don’t want either your boss or your team to know if you are feeling out of your depth. This isn’t unique. We all go through it. Coaching and mentoring can really help. Find someone who can support you, and I assure you your confidence will soar.