When starting a new job it can be equal parts exciting and daunting, add into the mix the management of a new team and things can become a little more complicated. How to introduce yourself as a manager to a new team is integral – data even shows that someone’s first impression of their manager will impact how engaged they are, for up to the next 12 months – so it’s important to get it right!
Managing a new team is more than just making a good impression though, it’s actually a great opportunity to establish new habits, standards and ideals. Unless you’re building a team from scratch, your new team will come up with a bucketload of previous experiences, baggage and expectations – some of these will be useful, some will be challenging to navigate. We have pulled together a formula that we have used with our clients, and managers and leaders at varying levels, with great success.
Share Your Story & Build Trust
As an initial introduction, it is important to share your own story. This story should be as human and authentic as possible, and where appropriate, share a level of vulnerability. Vulnerability is the biggest builder of trust, and when looking at how to introduce yourself as a manager to a new team, trust building should be your number one priority.
When we are looking at trust we aren’t looking at predictive trust – i.e. “I know you well enough to predict what you are going to do next”. This is the type of trust that people talk a lot about and although it’s great to trust someone will do what they say they will, or that they will always do quality work, it isn’t enough to build a truly great team on. What we’re looking at is vulnerability based trust – this is where people on a team can be completely open and honest in saying things like:
- I’m sorry, I was completely in the wrong yesterday…
- I am really struggling and could do with your help…
Great leaders build authentic connections with their team that are deeper than just surface level and this is your opportunity to immediately set the right tone by humanising yourself with your new team, and showing them that you want to build a psychological safe space for them to be open and honest with you, and that great teams are built on.
Gain Feedback & Generate Buy In
One the biggest mistakes we see with new managers and leaders is (often driven by feeling the pressure to immediately “perform”) they rush in with new incentives, improvements or ideas, before taking the time to understand the current way of working. Not only can this immediately alienate members of your team who may have been involved in setting up existing ways of working, but it also gives an indication to your new team that their feedback or buy in isn’t important to you.
Taking some time to really get under the skin of how the team currently works is really useful. This doesn’t have to be a lengthly process – it could be in a survey you set up, in a couple of focus group sessions, by spending a day or two carved up between different people just shadowing how they work, or even just over a “getting to know you” lunch. Some great questions include:
- “What do you think I need to understand better about you and this team?”
- “Can you help me understand that better?”
- “Where do you see improvements coming from?”
- “What one thing makes your job the most difficult?”
- “What has made you successful up to now?”
Set Behavioural Boundaries & Expectations
Once you have established trust, gained feedback and started to generate buy in with your new team, you can start setting your own boundaries and expectations. This should be relatively quick, ideally in your first week, so that the team know where they stand with you from early on, and old habits don’t have time to creep in. It is important to tie these boundaries to pre-existing values within the business for continuity of expectations.
Often, when looking at how to introduce yourself as a manger to a new team, you can take the softly softly approach for too long, trying to get people to like you before you draw any hard lines. The issue with this is that people end up confused by your sudden switch in management style.
Boundaries and expectations do not need to be aggressive lines, nor do they need to be delivered in a dictatorial way. They are simply sharing the behaviours, and ways of working, that are most important to you when managing a team, it could sound a little something like…
“You all know a little about me, and have probably seen some indications around my management style already. I have also taken a couple of days to really start to understand you all and your current ways of working. I now wanted to take some time to share some of my boundaries and expectations as the new manager of this team, so that we’re all on the same page and aiming in the same direction….”
What boundaries and expectations you set around behaviour and working practices, will all be dependent on your own non-negotiables, but could include some of the following (we have included some reference points you might find interesting reads to expand on this!)
- Minimal politics, and staying out of the drama triangle
- Having an outcome focus
- A positive, can-do attitude
- No blaming, complaining or getting defensive
- An adult approach to working
- Taking a team centric approach
The key with this communication is that you set out clear boundaries and behavioural expectations, then you don’t tolerate them moving forwards. So for instance, if someone brings drama to you, you direct them straight back to the person they are experiencing drama with, versus swooping in and saving the day (often contributing more to the drama!).
Focus On Relationships & Recognition
Once you have build initial trust, understand the current dynamics of the team and outlined your boundaries and behavioural expectations. You should be spending as much time as possible in building relationships with your team. When we say relationships, we don’t mean just focussing on the likability factor, which won’t always be possible, and in some cases too much likeability can be more of an issue. What we mean by relationships is establishing enough of a connection and understanding, by taking the time to really get to know someone, that they respect your opinion when you have one as you have put the time in to really understand how they work.
This “getting to know you” process is also a great time to start to reinforce positive behaviours, and build a level of recognition, so that when you need to give potentially negative feedback, you have built up a trusted baseline from which to do so. Research shows that you need to have given, on average, 7 pieces of positive feedback, before someone will be able to receive negative feedback or constructive criticism well. Ultimately, it is still easier to change people’s behaviour when you make them feel good, versus when they feel bad.
After all of the above, which feels a lot, but can be established in your first couple of weeks, you should be at the point where you have enough insight about the team to really agree some clear outcomes about what you hope to achieve together with your team. This could be what you see as the role of your team in the wider organisational strategy, to what you believe constitutes as success in each persons role – essentially you are setting out what you want from the team.
During outcome communication it is important to link back to what you have learned from the team, or the existing processes, so they know that has been taken into consideration. Often, because we have had the conversations, we assume people make the link, but often they don’t. Share what you have seen that you think has made them successful so far, and therefore what will remain, then clarify what you have seen that you think needs improvement and the changes that you expect to make.
For the more proactive people in the group, when you outline these outcomes, it can be useful to provide an action plan so that each team member has dedicated actions they can go away and work on immediately.
For more information on how to increase your management impact, you might be interested in our free leadership series Leaders Who Lead. You can also read more about other online courses, and the leadership and management programmes we run.