There are few things as hard in management and leadership as that of taking over an existing team, especially if you are a new manager. While each manager will have their own way of dealing with this, we have prepared a 7 tips which all managers can follow to improve their success rate and speed up the transition.
Understand the existing team dynamic and team members
To be effective in shaping the behaviour of the new team, the leader will need to understand the team that she’ll be leading as individuals as well as the team dynamic as a whole. Keep in mind that when individuals are in a group, they change their behaviour to adapt to that group. That means individuals will display different behaviours in different groups and also different behaviours when not in groups.
To understand the individual, a private one-on-one with a few prepared questions will be helpful. Make sure that you’re not just jotting down answers but truly listening to what your team members are saying and not saying. Try to get some personal details in there as well, such as kids’ and spouse’s names and birth dates. There’s nothing quite as nice as arriving at work with your manager wishing your little boy a happy birthday, especially if they’ve got a little surprise present to go along with it.
To understand the team dynamics, joys and pain points, a short but insightful SurveyMonkey survey goes a long way. Try to establish existing levels of engagement. Gallup has some great insight here on what affects engagement which you can use in your survey.
If you do not take the time to concretely set and establish the behavioural norms of the group, your team members will do it for you. In other words, what are the behaviours we wish to encourage and which behaviours are unacceptable? What happens in instances of unacceptable behaviour?
This step is usually quite easy if taking the following approach: Get your team together and ask them whether they want to be part of a high performing team or a low performing team. The answer is obvious. Then, draw a line down the whiteboard, splitting it into two, label one ‘high performance behaviours’ and the other ‘low performance behaviours’. Let your team come up with the relevant behaviours for each, e.g. arriving late, being self-motivated, etc. They have now decided on what they need to be doing to be they team they wish to be. From that, derive the appropriate rules to encourage or discourage the behaviours.
Understand the team’s objectives
This seems fairly elementary but nearly half of surveyed employees did not clearly know what is expected of them from Gallup’s survey results. Understand what are the numerical deliverables for your team and prioritise them. If they cannot be measured, find ways to measure them because if you can’t put a number to it, you will have difficulty in managing it. Also ensure that each team member understands how the work that they do affects these metrics.
Once clear numerical goals and time-frames are established, track the team’s results against those figures and put them on display for everyone to see. For high performing teams, the results remain at the forefront.
Identify the influencers
Some members of your team will have more influence than others. Identify who those are and find ways to positively use their influence. That doesn’t mean picking favourites or giving leniency towards certain individuals. Sometimes influencers are going have a negative impact and there may not be much that you can do about it. Be prepared to make to call on when someone is not good for the group. Always put the group first, the individual second. If you find yourself regularly having to let people in your team go because they’re not good for the group, you may need to question your own ability in influencing behaviour. Leaders don’t have the luxury of only working with people they like.
It takes time for a new manager to develop a reputation so needless to say, credibility is often a big problem for new managers. There is only one way to build credibility and unfortunately that is time and actions. There are a few things you can do to make the passing time more effective though.
Firstly, do what you say. Don’t make idle promises or go back on your word. That is not just true for promised rewards but also promised punishments, so beware what repercussions you promise. Think about what threats you make before you make them.
Secondly, lead by example. If you want your team members to arrive 5 minutes early, you need to arrive 20 minutes early. If you want them to be respectful to each other, you cannot show disrespect to others, even those who are not in your team.
Without honest but respectful communication, there can be no trust. Communication extends beyond setting targets and conducting performance reviews. It even extends beyond coaching and work related chatter. Employees need to be shown that they’re valued as individuals first and employees second. Make the time to speak about work and non work related topics with your individual team members. The open door policy is a cliche. Having an open door simply isn’t enough, you need to invite people through the open door and elicit conversation from them.
Make time for regular individual feedback as well. People want to know how they’re doing in relation to the expectations of their manager so make sure you’re having weekly informal chats about performance and at least monthly formal reviews.
We’ve mentioned measurement in step 3 already but it warrants its own section. Over and above the performance metrics you measure, which should be a given, also make time to regularly measure employee engagement. The research done by Gallup clearly shows the value of engaged employees and the harm of actively disengaged employees. You should be measuring employee engagement within your team on a monthly basis. It does not need to be a comprehensive 200 question survey All you need is an aggregated measure of a few questions to see the mental state of your team so that you proactively manage engagement rather than having a reactionary response.
Finally, measure yourself. That is, let your team anonymously rate you on a couple of areas such as how approachable you are, what their overall leadership rating of you’s, etc. This will certainly help you improve as a leader and allow you to understand your team’s expectations of you.