When you find yourself suddenly managing a new team, it can feel like an uphill battle that you’re not sure how to conquer. The team might resent you as a new manager or have firm ideas fixed in place from their prior manager that you have to overcome.
It’s hard enough to get people to work together when the team knows you and trusts you as a leader. How do you address a new team of existing employees in such a way that they listen to you and become a highly engaged business team that results in 21% greater profitability?
Managing a New Team
The reality is that turnover and rapid change happens in every industry, which regularly requires new leaders to step in a take over established teams with little warning. So, you’re not alone. Highly capable leaders know how to handle these transitions smoothly and quickly, building trust, respect, and professional working relationships.
Belief in senior leadership is the strongest engagement driver. This article will offer a few ideas for managing a new team with advice on creating an environment where everyone feels motivated for success.
1. Work Quickly
People decide your trustworthiness within a tenth of a second. —Princeton Research
The first few weeks of managing a new team are critical. According to Michael Watkins, the co-founder of Genesis Advisers and author of The First 90 Days, “People form opinions pretty quickly, and these opinions tend to be sticky.”
You need to figure out how to get your team working well up front. If you don’t, you’ll continue dealing with the same problems over and over again. It’s all about getting a start on the right foot. This means that you need to come into your team with a plan for success as well as the time and energy to establish how you want your team to work.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should come in as a new manager and make rapid changes within the first three months. Too much water too quickly causes a flood. Quick, surface wins can’t outperform long-term sustainable change.
So, while you need to work quickly, the first act when managing a new team should be to accurately gauge whom you’re working with. Follow these strategies for communicating change to your team.
2. Get to Know Your Team
Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. —Salesforce
You have to get to know everyone on your team before you can start discussing the work and expected outcomes. That means your goal should be focusing more on camaraderie instead of restructuring, projects, procedures, and policies.
“If you don’t take time upfront to figure out how to get the team working well, problems are always going to come up,” says Mary Shapiro, the author of the HBR Guide to Leading Teams. “One of your first priorities should be to get to know your team members and to encourage them to get to better know one another.”
Getting to know your team involves learning the nuances and dynamics of everyone working together. You need to pay attention to each member individually through one-on-one meetings to learn strengths, weaknesses, goals, and priorities. But you also need to schedule frequent meetings with the entire group to see how everyone works together.
In particular, you need to learn the culture of your new team—their beliefs, assumptions, and unwritten rules. Figure out your team’s habits and workflow, so that when you begin managing your new team, you can then start thinking about how to make them more productive in helpful ways.
3. Celebrate the Team’s Accomplishments
70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve massively with managers saying thank you more. —Reward Gateway
Just because you’re an outsider managing a new team doesn’t mean that the team didn’t experience success before you. It’s a good idea to take some time at the beginning to recognize and celebrate the team’s accomplishments before you joined. This will not only give you an idea of your team’s strengths and milestones, but it will help you learn how those successes impacted your people.
The goal should be to show your new team that you care about their success while also establishing new ways to mark success. This is the ideal time to establish traditions for acknowledging top performers or hitting milestones. And be sure to get feedback from your team on what type of celebration they prefer.
By leading with celebration instead of criticism, people will be more excited to work with you.
4. Open Communication Lines
Productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees. —The McKinsey Global Institute
Open communication is key to managing a new team. If there’s one thing that managers need to remember is that the more touch points, the more meetings, the more communication, the better. No one ever says, “I wish my boss would stop communicating with me. I’m sick of her.”
Instead, garnering your team’s feedback and giving your own is one of the best ways to alleviate tension, determine needs, and to figure out the best way to move forward. You want to act as a coach and not a dictator, allowing new ideas and collaboration, which is crucial for any and every team.
5. Set Clarifying Goals
97% of employees and executives believe that lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. —TINY Pulse
One of the most important tasks a leader has when managing a new team is to set ambitious but achievable goals with your team’s input. This allows you to make clear what you’re working toward and how you expect to get there. By setting clarifying goals early, you’re able to hold your new team accountable and ensure that you’re all on the same page.
Just be sure to take it a step at a time. Create low-risk experiments to get an accurate idea of what your team is ready for and be willing to experiment, test, analyze, adjust, and implement changes accordingly. The goal should be to push your team to the next level without taking them too far and too fast. And don’t be afraid to be innovative!
Managing a new team is never easy. There will be times where you feel discouraged and at a loss for where to go from here. The only thing you can do is roll up your sleeves and get to work. Be a leader who doesn’t sit on the sidelines but instead helps carry the team forward by working on every activity, even the mundane tasks.
Winning over a new team takes time, patience, and know how, but the results are worth it.
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