New Manager Series 1/3: Managing the Team You Inherited
There are three main scenarios in which you can become a new manager:
1. You already have some leadership experience, and by moving to a new role in a different department or company, you start managing an existing team.
2. You are a Star A-player in your team and get promoted to a leadership position within it.
3. You are a “solopreneur” or a leader of a start-up division where business is growing, and now you need to start building and managing a team from scratch.
Starting today, over the next three weeks, I will write about all three of those scenarios covering the main mistakes that leaders sometimes make and giving you tips on how to avoid them.
All this information is an excellent source of learning to all managers and can apply to many scenarios. So don’t miss out and follow the series to get most of out it!
Managing the Team, You Inherited
1. Understand the core purpose of your role
Any role has a core mission and purpose, whether it is clearly stated or not. Remember then that your organization hired you for a reason. You are a manger so that with your team you deliver specific results to the company and help solve real challenges.
That is why, as soon as possible you need to fundamentally understand what vision your new boss has for your role and what outcomes they see you achieve.
If you are lucky you found some of that during the interview processes. Maybe you asked, or maybe whoever interviewed you mentioned the main aspects of the role and expectations.
However, you need to take the interview process with a grain of salt. Interviews are like a sales pitch on both sides. On the one hand, you try to sell yourself and get the job you have dreamed of. On the other side, the employer attempts to sell the position they are hiring for. They do that by striking a balance of setting the right expectations to attract the best candidates but also trying not to scare them off right from the start or disclose too much of confidential internal information to the public.
Now you know why it is crucial that right after the start date, you need to take steps, listen, ask questions and learn to fully understand what is going on around you and why were you hired.
This bring me to advice # 2.
2. Have a learning mindset as opposed to “I know it better” attitude.
One of the common mistakes new leaders make when coming into the organization is by having a mindset of knowing “the answer” to all the problems their teams are facing. Avoid that at all cost! Not only you definitely will not have all the answers, but also you will show up as arrogant and insecure. Such an attitude will only alienate people form you.
And because of this, instead of gaining the trust of your team and build the proper relationships, you will put yourself in a trust hole that you might not be able to get out of. I know that you do not want to be sabotaging your chances of success, especially right from the start.
The remedy to the above is to engage in social learning instead.
Yes, reading reports, contracts and documents necessary for your role is critical. However, to get to know your new company or division, you need to talk to people. Striking the right balance of both will allow you to form your own informed opinions on the environment, people, as well as what is working and what is not.
If you have lead teams before, I am sure you know that each company or even department has a unique culture that you will want to understand and adapt to. Not venturing into the learning through connecting with people and relationship building, you will isolate yourself very quickly. So be humble, listen and ask questions first. You will be amazed at how much you can learn!
That is why, my last three tips talk about connecting with people, starting with your team.
3. Get to know your Team Members.
Taking time to know your team members is the best investment you will make as a leader. You need to figure out quick who are your stars, your solid rock performers, and your bottom 10% that needs to be coached or find better opportunities elsewhere.
One-on-one meetings are one of the best ways to do it along with regular staff meetings.
Ensure you make at least the first couple of on-one-ones friendly and relaxed as opposed to formal and stiff. Your employees cannot feel like they are in an interrogation or a performance review right from the start.
You should definitely prepare yourself by thinking of a set of good questions to ask but don’t forget about allowing for some time for your team members to ask questions as well.
Additionally, think of introducing yourself as a professional but also a human being. Showing your personal side will make you authentic and give you credibility. Why? Because credibility is established not only by experience and technical skill but also by being vulnerable. Now, to avoid the trap of making the meetings all about you, your part should be short and sweet.
With the right questions, observation, and positive atmosphere, you will get to know your team members not only as employees but also individuals. This approach will help you start building trust and have your employees open to you.
Once you understand their skills and strengths, you will be in a position to assign them the tasks they enjoy doing.
In turn, it will increase the team member engagement and benefit the company the most. Knowing them as individuals will also allow you to find out what motivates them. And that will give you ideas on proper ways of recognizing and coaching your employees.
If you are finding these tips helpful and would like to receive more, for example, strategies on how to assess the qualities of your team members, then sign up for my newsletter. This week’s edition includes top-notch actionable advice that you can start using right away! Click here to sign up.
4. Establish a good relationship with your boss.
Sometimes while learning, getting to know their team, putting out early fires, etc., the new managers forget about the relationship with their boss. Ironically, the bosses are the ones, whose buy-in and support you will need with all of your major decisions, infinitives or changes.
Building a positive relationship with your boss is one of your key opportunities to transition successfully into the new role. That is why you need to invest time and effort to understand them. Just like with your employees, find out what motivates them; what are their priorities and goals they need to achieve? What are their challenges and how you can help in solving them? What are their expectations of you and their way of working?
Answers to those questions will give you a glimpse into your bosses’ value’s, concerns and struggles. Surpassing the superficial puts you on the right path to establishing a true partnership with your boss.
5. Build external alliances and networks.
For your team to be successful, which will make you successful, you need to form alliances and create two main networks with people outside of your direct control.
Operational – those are the relationships with other people in the company that will help you and your team, perform your daily tasks and do your jobs efficiently (ex. IT or marketing). Your role as a leader is to remove roadblocks from your team’s way so they can keep going. Operational networking helps you achieve it.
Strategic – those are the relationships with key stakeholders, outside of your direct control, whose support you will need to deliver on main goals and objectives.
Building alliances and networks takes time, usually longer than a month or two. However, in the first 90 days, you can at least identify the key people with whom you should form such relationships and start the process.
6. Don’t try to save the world in a month.
Attempting to do too much at once is very tempting, especially when you enter a dysfunctional environment. However, striking the right balance between learning and making decisions leading to pivotal changes is key to success. Identifying and focusing on what you need to learn first, will allow you to find and secure the right early wins.
Yes, you can experiment and try different approaches in overcoming challenges and solving problems. But excessive experimentation in the beginning or starting on too many changes in a short time will only confuse and overwhelm your people. Striking the right balance is key!
In summary, stepping into any new role is as exciting as it is challenging. To be successful, you need to use your first couple of months in it strategically. Make sure you understand the core purpose of why you were hired. Come in with an unassuming and learning mindset. Take time to get to know your team, your boss and build relationships founded on trust and credibility. Lastly, identify people who can help your team and you in your journey to success and start creating supportive networks with them. If you take all those steps, you will be walking the path of success.
PS. I hope you enjoyed this post and will follow the entire series. However, starting today if you want to learn more and have access to exclusive, actionable advice that you can apply right away, click here and sign up to my newsletter. It will take you less than 20 seconds and in turn, give you access to the wealth of knowledge on how to be successful in any leadership role!