Being the new person in any situation is always difficult. It can even be intimidating for some as it is common that others will not trust you in the beginning because they do not know what to expect from you. Here are some ideas you might want to explore.
- Communicate your vision clearly.
It is inevitable that your team members are going to be somewhat apprehensive about new team leadership as they will wonder what changes you will make and what new direction you may want to take the team. Because of those concerns, it would be best to just articulate your ideas from the beginning and be as honest, open, and respectful as possible, even if you are not sure exactly how to proceed. You have likely been put in this position for a reason, so do not be afraid to offer a 2 or 3-month plan so that the team members will quickly learn that you are open to suggestions, evaluation, and accountability. Transparency works both ways, so while you are developing trust with your team, and demonstrating your desire to be open and honest with them, it will be likely that they will then begin to model that behaviour back to you.
- Ask lots of questions.
You likely have plenty of experience to share however it is better to learn as much as possible about the expectations of your team as you proceed so that you can align yourself with their needs and concerns as you move forward and introduce your own ideas, goals and core values later.
This approach means that you should employ active listening and other aspects of effective communication as you get to know your team members. You can also encourage them to ask questions of you so that, together, you can learn about each other. This demonstrates that you wish to be seen as a “learner” as you realize you are new to this leadership position and want to do it well. This approach will help to build trust and credibility and will make you more approachable to them. You likely have plenty of experience to share however it is better to learn as much as possible about the expectations of your team as you proceed so that you can align yourself with their needs and concerns as you move forward and introduce your own ideas, goals and core values later.
- Try to determine what your team wants.
It is crucial to get to know the people on your team so that you can leverage their skills and talents toward the achievement of common goals. Recognizing their potential and then helping them to fulfil it will be of benefit to both the team and the individuals themselves. Once you know more about their gifts you may even be able to offer them more or different responsibilities to suit their particular skill set. In fact, a role change or expansion of duties can turn a high-potential team member into a very valuable employee and again, this is of benefit to everyone.
- Don’t be afraid to “get your hands dirty”.
It never hurts to be doing the exact same work your team, especially if someone is away and there is no one else to “pick up the slack”. In this way, you will establish yourself and a person who leads by example and will better understand the challenges that your team members face on a daily basis. You could even suggest that team members work in different departments so that they can gain a better understanding of the big picture of the organization. This of course also works for you when you try your hand at various aspects of the jobs your team members perform.
- Be decisive as this makes you look confident and competent.
Once you have a better understanding of how your team operates, you can then begin articulating your vision and moving toward its implementation. Certainly, as the “new kid on the block”, this will be a bit hard to do, however, having gotten right in there and tried out some of their responsibilities, you will be more likely to have gained some measure of trust with your team so they will be more willing to accept your ideas for the future. In fact, if you involve them in part of the decision making for your common goals and targets, they will definitely buy into your plans and realize why you were given this leadership position.
Most of the team will probably be uncomfortable at first, just because you are new to them, however, change is the new norm and as the new leader, you will actually be expected to affect some changes. The most difficult time will be the transition period, however, if you follow the five strategies above that time frame should be easier to tolerate and manage for all of you.