Five Critical Steps for New Team Leaders
By Bob Mason
I recently saw a request for help from someone who was chosen to replace the leader of an already established team. He doesn’t know the team members and has not led a team of this size before. To make things even more complicated, the team is spread out in several countries.
That’s a daunting responsibility! But, basic leadership principles still apply. Here are five steps any leader should take when embarking on a new leadership challenge.
Don’t worry that you’re new and didn’t hire any of the team. All teams need good leadership and that’s what you’re there to provide.
1. Learn as much as you can about the team before you start in the new position. But, don’t act on any of that information until you have a chance to meet the team and observe. Analyze all the information you gather, then decide how to act. People outside the team will often provide incomplete or even erroneous information, whether intentionally or not.
2. When you first meet your new team tell them,
a. You have been honored with the opportunity to help them do great things.
b. You have already seen the work they have done and are excited about being a part of that.
Now, it may be that this team hasn’t been very successful, but you can fix that later. Don’t lie to them or exaggerate, your credibility will be shot, but you do want to begin on a positive note. You also don’t want to appear to be the guy who’s going to change everything. That would be the fastest way to build a giant, impregnable wall between you and the team.
3. Talk to, and more importantly listen to each member of the team. You want to learn as quickly as possible each person’s strengths and weaknesses.
4. Make sure you know what the team is there to do. Often teams just wander around in the wilderness because their mission is not clearly defined. When you are clear on the team’s mission, make sure the team is too. Then, if the team doesn’t have a clear plan to accomplish that mission, bring them together to build one. This is a great way to build a cohesive team and let them see how you are as the leader.
5. Two things you should not do.
a. Don’t start out with the attitude that you’re there to fix things or that you’re there because you have the answers. Even if you are there to fix things, don’t say it.
b. Don’t immediately start issuing orders and making changes. There are very, very few situations where a leader needs to make immediate changes. You may see things that need to be changed, but they can most likely wait until you have gathered more information.
These five steps will help you get started on the right foot with the new team. Always remember that the leader is there to serve the team, not the other way around.
Bob Mason is a speaker, trainer, and author of “Bridging the Generations: A Leader’s Guide to the Complex Multi-Generational, 21st Century Workplace” and “Planning to Excel: Strategic Planning That Works.” After 30 years of leadership experience he founded RLM Planning and Leadership to transform leadership by developing great leaders. Bob works with organizations that want to excel by training managers to lead and creating great strategic plans to keep leaders focused. See what he can do for you at http://www.planleadexcel.com.
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