Becoming a manager and taking over a new team can be exhilarating and frightening. By following these strategies, you can put your best foot forward when you begin your new role.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but one reason new managers have difficulties when they take over an existing team is that as part of their approach they only focus on raw output and data- for example performance indicators (management)- and forget about a key element of their role, to also lead.
Remember, there are fundamental differences between leadership and management, yet effective team leaders do both. Being a strong leader as opposed to just a manager will empower your team to be more productive, effective and creative.
In short, managers achieve more if they purposely lead as opposed to just manage.
Taking over a new team is going to come with challenges. At its most basic, a new manager represents change, and change is inherently difficult for the vast majority of people.
Your new team may be experiencing change fatigue, they could still have a preference for the style of their previous manager or may even be resentful towards you for no clear reason.
Acknowledging that there will be challenges taking over a new team, and preparing for your first days, weeks and months in your new role, will create a smoother transition for both you and your team.
What should new team leaders do first?
An important tip to remember is that effective leadership doesn’t begin when you step into the office. Skilled leaders prepare for their first days, weeks and months in a new role before they begin working with their team.
As you prepare to build your new relationships, remember: you will be judged by your actions before you are judged by anything else.
Identify your standards
Many new managers fail because they do not have a clear set of standards or because their team perceives a contradiction between their words and their actions.
From the minute you step into your new role, your team will be looking to you to set and follow a shared set of standards and expectations.
Sharing your values, vision and attitudes towards your role will help your team to understand how you will all be able to work together and what you will expect from each other.
In the very early days of taking over a team, it is critical that you build rapport with and between each member. Rapport can be built in any number of ways, from a casual coffee and chat at an informal off-site meeting to engaging in a team retreat and team building activity.
A very easy way to begin building rapport is to ask each member to share the thing that they are most proud of and the experience that they learnt the most from. By doing this together, you are starting to develop a culture that is honest and sharing.
At the same time, you as the team leader are also identifying what motivates your staff.
Some more ideas to help new team leaders win over their team
Having established how you are going to approach your first few months in your new role, it is important to continue to develop your management approach by working on your core leadership skills, including your listening and motivational skills as well as your ability to build a productive team culture.
Learn to really listen
New managers might be overly eager to develop relationships with their team that they burst out and talk at every opportunity.
Whilst it is critical that the team has regular and clear communication from their manager, including a clear understanding of their goals and expectations, it is just as important that the manager listens.
In fact, learning to listen with an intent to understand, rather than listening with the intent to reply or problem-solve, is one of the most important skills of leadership, and remember, the two go hand in hand.
Learning to truly listen is a difficult but worthwhile skill to master. If you can show your employees that you are listening with the intent to understand, you show them that you are empathetic and emotionally intelligent.
In return your employees will see you as honest and worthy of their trust, resulting in a greater level of respect.
Additionally, in order to be a truly effective manager, you need your team to be open and honest with you and to feel safe and valued in bringing their ideas and insights.
Employees want to be heard, and the only way that can happen is if their manager stops and listens.
Learn what motivates each individual within your team
If you are a goal-oriented person and all of your communication (especially in a one-on-one situation), is oriented towards goal accomplishment, however your team members are motivated by the people side of work (relationship and recognition) then your communication can become meaningless.
More significantly, your team members will lose motivation as they will perceive that you, as their manager, do not place value on their needs.
In the early stages of building your relationship with your team, make sure you investigate and understand what their true motivations are.
Once you know and understand what motivates your employees, tailor your communication to ensure your team feels heard.
For example, if one of your team members is motivated by learning new skills, then help them identify relevant courses and training that can assist them in their work.
If another staff member is motivated by recognition, then send them an email when you notice them achieve a goal, or when they go the extra mile to solve a problem.
Identifying employee motivation is also a critical success factor in delivering effective staff feedback.
Furthermore, formal and informal feedback is an opportunity to check in with your staff and to see if the motivators they had six to twelve months ago are the same motivators, and to adjust your leadership style and communication accordingly.
Foster a culture of sharing
Team members respect their managers and feel empowered when they believe that their manager respects their skills, experience and opinions.
If your team is afraid to share information with you, then you may not be aware of potential roadblocks until it is too late. Conversely, you may miss out on creating something brilliant, because your team is too scared to share.
From day one, your team needs to know that you are willing to listen and that you respect their knowledge and skills.
Prepare yourself to be an effective leader
Here is a top tip that can do wonders for your career. Working alongside others who have already been on the path will be extremely helpful. Nothing beats first hand experience.
Find and work with a mentor
A good business mentor is like a coach, they inspire, they motivate, they challenge, and they help you develop.
A good mentor will never judge you, rather they create a safe space where you can test your ideas and ask the questions that you need answered.
If you have never worked with a mentor before, begin by working with someone that you know, who has an effective leadership style that you admire.
This kind of mentee- mentor relationship will help you to develop emotional insights into people and further grow as a leader.
Outline your opening words and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Having already identified your vision, values and attitudes as part of working on and acknowledging your own standards, it is time to start working on the first words you are going to say to your new team as their leader.
As you think over those first words, think about what your goals are and why you have been chosen for the role of manager for this team.
Make sure you are transparent, humble and that you clearly identify that in the first days and weeks of working with each other, you will be learning as much about them as you can so that you can help them to achieve their goals.
Before you launch into addressing your team, make sure you rehearse. Your body language should be clear and open, your tone sincere, and your words should sound natural.
Practice your opening comments in front of someone who will give you honest feedback, and/or record yourself to ensure that your words flow smoothly and you are clearly delivering your message.
Brush up on your professional knowledge
Finally, it is important to read books and articles on leadership as part of your professional development.
If you have not done this before, begin by looking to someone that you admire, regardless of the business sector they work in, and read their biography. As you read, pay attention to who their inspirations were, and then read about those people.
If you are finding yourself short on time, then subscribe to the podcasts created by leaders in your field and listen to them on your daily commute. Alternatively, set a Google alert for articles of interest for leadership and management and start each day by spending five to ten minutes reading at least one article.
Becoming the leader of a new team may feel like the most exciting and overwhelming task in your professional life, but by following the management approach outlined above, you will be well prepared for your new role.
And don’t forget, management and leadership, like any other skill that we wish to master, requires ongoing training and development. It is your responsibility to constantly build on and refine your skillset to ensure that you are the most effective people manager you can be.
Your comments and insights are welcome.
Please also check out our full list of managerial courses.
The Aptitude Team