It’s your annual review, and you’ve received outstanding performance feedback from your colleagues. Because of your impressive track record, your managers believe in your ability to help drive business growth - particularly in your area of expertise - and thus have promoted you into a higher management position. Now you have more authority, responsibility, and, most importantly, an opportunity to create a focused team under your leadership. Your success is now measured by your team’s success.
You are welcomed into your new position with a list of “suggestions” from upper management on what is needed from your team. Being the diligent employee that you are, you start to immediately implement those suggestions; however, you are suddenly surprised by the reactions of your team members. Despite your good intentions, they aren’t taking your suggestions well. You feel confused and may be saying to yourself, “I’ve always been amazing at my job and I get along well with everyone! What’s happening here? Am I doing something wrong?”
Does this scenario sound familiar? What many people fail to recognize is that the arrival of a new leader creates organizational change, and generally, people don’t like change. As creatures of habit, routines make us feel safe and allow us to predict with some certainty what’s going to happen next. So the question is, how can you help your team embrace change and maximize their performance? Here are a few “Do’s and Don’ts” to ensure your success.
Do take time to meet your team to build strong relationships. It’s vital to get to know each of your direct reports. Everyone wants to “belong,” and your efforts to welcome them as valued members of the team will enhance team cohesion.
Do elicit feedback from all team members, even if they are not your direct reports. Depending on the size of the team, you might speak to every person, construct a survey, or provide a suggestion box. Whatever you do, be specific about the information you are seeking. Every person has a unique perspective about what does and doesn’t work. They hold a wealth of information that is specific to their own experience, which can be useful in crafting any new endeavor to move the team forward. Note, open-ended questions are better than forced choice surveys to gather information.
Do listen to your team and talk less! In the process of collecting information, ideas, perceptions, and feelings from those on your team, make the effort to hear - and really absorb - what they have to say. As noted above, everyone wants to “belong” and can be quite sensitive to your style of interacting with them. Also keep in mind that 95% of what we communicate is done non-verbally, so stay alert to what you may be communicating with your body language.
Do get “buy-in” from your team before implementing any change. Again, as creatures of habit, we don’t like our “psychological” equilibrium upset by someone imposing a change upon us. Team members are more likely to embrace change if they have participated in its design and believe, from their experience, that it will make a difference.
Don’t assume you know best. No matter how much expertise you have, you now hold a new position and new vantage point from which to see the work that needs to be accomplished. While you have your perceptions of what would, could, and should work, it will be your team members, not you, who will be doing the bulk of the work...They are now the “experts” and you are the leader who needs to harness their energy to do great work.
Don’t impose change too quickly. It takes time to build rapport with your team, facilitate their feedback, and develop a strategy for implementing change. Respect the process involved in each of these steps, as it will render a well-thought plan for engaging your team while preparing for implementation.
Don’t compromise trust by talking behind the backs of team members. The quickest way to alienate members of your team is to “gossip” about them to others. You may not think you are gossiping, but people talk and will compare notes on conversations with the boss. Further, we all have different ways of processing information, and our own needs impact our perception of the “data” that is derived from those conversations. When entering a new leadership role, remember team cohesion leads to increased work satisfaction, team performance, and task accomplishment. Building trust is crucial to your team’s success.
Don’t use artificial “metrics” to pit people against each other. A little healthy competition goes a long way, right? No, not always...and definitely not when you’re trying to maximize the performance (and the confidence) individuals on your team. While the business world seems to be driven by “metrics” to gauge success, those measures, if applied indiscriminately, can be detrimental to team cohesion. Imagine one team member withholding data from another just to be rewarded as the “shining star” by the boss. Sometimes, individual rewards are best given privately, while team rewards should be given publicly. In any case, as a leader, you must discern how to best recognize and reward your team members.
In conclusion, remember, the most “sought after” and beloved leaders create followers. To do this, the best leaders create an atmosphere were all team members have a voice, are acknowledged, and are recognized as valuable contributors to the organization’s success. It’s not about you, it’s about the TEAM and the amazing outcomes that are created together when change is not only managed, but properly embraced and executed.
Engagement + Satisfaction = Maximum Performance
Please let me know if I can help you become a Leader-in-Demand in your organization!