OK. You’ve been through the interview process, done your due diligence, and have an understanding of why there was an opening.
Perhaps the last guy got a promotion, won the lotto, or was simply not great at the job – whichever way you’ve landed the role, you’ve been brought in to replace them. So how do you get your new staff to accept you as their new leader? In my experience, there are five simple steps you need to follow.
1. Don’t knock your predecessor
Regardless of the reason they left, never – never – denigrate your predecessor. This person was working with the team and it’s very possible he/she is still their friend, or at least someone they sympathise with. You weren’t there; you didn’t know all the ins and outs. The team won’t warm well to someone coming on board and knocking his or her work – apart from anything else, they may take it that you’re knocking them too.
2. Build the team up
Very few teams celebrate when there’s a change of leadership – even if they’re happy the old boss is gone – you see, it is better the devil you know. Morale is likely to be quite low and the team will be feeling more than a little apprehensive. You’re going to need to navigate this mine field with a deal of sympathy and a lot of empathy. Assume they’re good people and keen to do good work. Involve them in your on-boarding – they know you won’t know everything – ask for their opinion on what needs to be done.
Being a good leader isn’t about knowing all the answers – it’s about getting the right results.
Show them you value their perspectives, that you have faith in their ability and that you’ll support and protect them. And if you really don’t have faith in someone’s ability, manage them out humanely.
3. WIIFM for them?
Give the team something to strive for! Find out what each team member wants to achieve, whatever it is. A new role? More money so they can better support family? Strengthen a particular skill set to advance their career? Perhaps they applied for your job and missed out? Find out, and then find a way to help them achieve their goals. You may not be in a position to give it to them but there’s normally some way you can help them progress and nothing builds success like the team knowing they have an advocate who cares about them as individuals.
4. Set the goals
Let them know how you’re going to measure them – is quality more important than quantity, for example?
Be clear with what the team needs to achieve. Explain the team’s measures of success and ask them to let it guide their decision making.
Give them the freedom to take a little risk and support them when things don’t go quite as planned. Trust in them and they’ll reward your trust with better productivity and higher quality.
5. Protect your team and hold your manager accountable
Finally, with leading a team comes great responsibility. Rather like a parent, you’re responsible for both growing your team’s abilities while protecting them from deleterious external forces.
If something goes wrong on your watch it’s actually your mistake for not having the right controls in place. So never let someone in your team take an undeserved bullet. And in turn, hold your manager accountable. Don’t let the boss slack off and leave the risk with you. The moment you do you’ve entered the slippery slide to disaster from which there is rarely any return …
Oh, and one more thing. During that ‘honeymoon period’ when you first start, hit the boss up for a team dinner out and insist that each team member can bring their significant other. Why? Because when your team’s significant others meet each other, the whole balance of the relationships change, and you start to turn your team into a community.