From my own personal experience and from working with many new leaders, I know that stepping into a leadership role for the first time or even leading a new team, can feel scary or even intimidating and at times overwhelming.
If not done well it can cause unnecessary stress and frustrations for both you and your team, leading to damaged relationships and a loss of trust ……and possibly even lost performance and productivity, as well as endless self doubt and loss of confidence. Things which will take a long time to put right and recover from.
However, there are many, many positives to leading a team and when done well with a plan and with a purpose, it is exciting, fulfilling and will reap endless rewards for you, your team and the business.
So, you are the new leader of the team. It’s your first day on the job, your initial induction into the business is done, and you ask yourself, “So what do I do now?”
Here are 10 tips to help you get off to a great start:
1. Plan and map out your first 90 days. Before your start date.
This literally does mean considering and mapping out everything you will do and want to achieve in the first 90 days (including those points listed below) as well as how you will do them. Some of the finer details may not be available to you until you actually start, like access to someone’s diary for example but a good PA or EA, or the person involved in shaping your induction, should be able to help you plan meetings or key activities in advance. And whilst it’s necessary to be flexible, a good plan will keep you on track and strategically in the right direction. It will also help with managing the feelings of overwhelm that can creep in with the information overload that often comes when you start a new position.
2. Meet your team, your line manager(s) and other key stakeholders.
Find out what each of your team does, what their knowledge, their previous experience and future aspirations are and how other teams work with or alongside you and your team. Seek to understand any interdependencies and impacts of non delivery. Also, consider the relationship you want to have with your manager. Let them know your preferences for how you like to be managed and communicated with and so on. If it’s done diplomatically and with the intent to facilitate communication and build great relationships, most line managers will be receptive.
3. Gather information
Go on a fact-finding mission. Initially, don’t look to change anything, just ask, listen and observe. As you do this, build in what you are learning about the team, the culture, the opportunities and challenges. How is your team perceived by the wider business and customers? Does it have a great or poor reputation? Reflect on this information before considering the changes you wish to make further down the line.
4. Consider your communication strategy
Find out how things have been done previously and what communication strategies are already in place? What meetings take place, how frequently, who is present and what’s their purpose? Are they effective? What internal business communication systems are there? (emails, notice boards, townhalls, reporting meetings and so on) – in essence, do the communication systems work, do people feel informed and listened to or could these systems use some adjusting? As a general rule of thumb it’s always best to over communicate.
5. Identify quick wins
Everyone loves a quick win. Taking action demonstrates that you are listening and can get things done. Importantly, achieving a “quick win” builds team momentum and motivates people. However, be mindful, this does not mean acting rashly or doing something just to keep people happy. Asking questions like, “what one simple thing would make your job easier / improve customer service / improve communication / improve productivity?” can help to identify the quick wins.
6. Share what you stand for
Sharing your vision, your values and what you stand for helps your team to understand you, sets a level of vulnerability and transparency and will help them to connect with you.
7. Set out or (re) clarify goals, targets, objectives
Clarify goals, targets and objectives at individual and team levels. Set your priorities, standards and expectations for delivery out clearly. Ensure the team understand how their objectives support delivery of the wider business objectives and how they will be evaluated. Make sure you have regular review and feedback mechanisms in place so progress and delivery is measured and communicated consistently and accountability is understood at all levels.
8. Get to really know your team and encourage them to know you
Relationships and trust are the foundations of any great team. You can only do this if you start to get to know people on a deeper level than the job they perform and they get to know you in the same way. Be respectful of the history of the team and their expertise. Does everyone feel included and comfortable contributing for example? Do you know their hopes and concerns, experiences and aspirations? Their personal circumstances? Set up one-to-one meetings as soon as possible. Holding a team build day or a series of team building activities over a period of time for example can be an additional approach to getting to know each other better. One really nice activity is to ask each team member (including you) to bring in 5 things that best describes them or means something to them and to share what they feel comfortable to. Be mindful to set the tone appropriately.
9. Consider the leadership shadow you want to cast
– you only get one chance at a first impression. Do you know what do you want to be known for and what type of leader do you want to be? Getting clear on these two questions can help you to define “how ” you do things. Lead by example and role model the behaviours you want to encourage in the team. So for example, using a coaching approach with team members supports self directed solutioning and a growth mindset rather than learned helplessness from being told the answers. Asking for feedback regularly for yourself and giving feedback freely in a timely way supports a culture of continuous improvement and encourages input from the team and an expectation for growth.
10. Build in personal reflection time
Regular reviewing of your observations, meetings and conversations will allow you time to effectively diagnose, process and prioritise your strategy, goals, outputs and milestones for the next 90 days and beyond. Consult with and build in reflection time with your line manager too. Start off as you mean to go on.