Your Career Path to Success: Creating an Effective Team Relationship

Bill Morin<br />Chairman & CEO<br />WJM Associates

How often have you seen a new leader make a major blunder with his or her new team, and never ultimately recover from it … or have to make considerable repairs to relationships before things begin to smooth out?

In our experience as on-boarding advisors, we have found that there are steps newly hired and newly promoted executives can take early on – even before assuming their positions – to build an effective relationship with their new team.

Here are several recommendations to consider before you start your new job, on your first day and during your first week to get off on the right foot with your new team:

Before Starting a New Job

Learn from your manager about circumstances surrounding your role as they pertain to your team. It’s hard to know what went on in an organization before you arrived. For example, often organizations go to outside hires when there are those within the organization who expected or wanted the role. This information is important to know. Find out from your manager:

  • Whether there are any people in the organization who applied for your position. If so, what happened? Discuss with your manager how best to work with these individuals.
  • What was your predecessor’s style? For example, if he was highly controlling, you may be inheriting a fairly unempowered team. Or if he was hardly around, your team may not be used to reporting to someone.
  • What, if any, special circumstances should you be aware of? Did your predecessor have any “favorites” who may be resentful of or worried about you? Was she a beloved leader or someone the staff feared? This information will give you hints as to what type of climate you will encounter.
  • Where did your predecessor go, and does your manager expect others to follow? This will impact staffing and other plans for the organization down the road.
  • Ask to see any internal or external communications about your arrival before they are distributed. This way, you’ll have the chance to correct any errors and you’ll have a feel for the tone of the communication.

On Your First Day

Hold a meeting with your entire team if possible, or, at the very least, all of your direct reports. There will be lots of curiosity about your arrival. The longer you wait to meet everyone, the more the speculation grows. At the meeting, your focus should be “we” not “I”. Here are some guidelines:

  • Introduce yourself, including a very brief background. Indicate that you’re excited to be in your new role, because you’ve heard a lot of great things about this team and this organization.
  • Let everyone know that you’ll be relying on them for help in learning the organization and its people. Talk about how you’re looking forward to meeting everyone, and make a point to follow up.
  • Let them know that you’re available to meet, and what your initial schedule will be like. This will quiet the rumor mill (“Why isn’t he ever here?” “Why is she always behind closed doors?”).
  • Don’t communicate your vision, expectations or how you plan to change things. This meeting is about making your team feel comfortable. Offer everyone opportunities to ask questions.

During Your First Week

Be visible. Introduce yourself, and talk to people. Hold a meeting with each of your direct reports. Ask about their history with the organization, their accomplishments, what they’re most proud of. In these meetings, the focus is on them, not you. Here are some other guidelines:

  • Discuss your communication styles and preferences briefly – let them know how to best communicate with you.
  • Thank them for their time, insights and support.
  • Don’t tell your team how wonderful and smart the people back at “The Last Company” were. Only mention the name of the last company when responding to where you worked.
  • Don’t use this meeting to discuss salary or any changes you plan to make to the organization. Don’t offer any of your opinions about anyone, particularly negative ones. Only offer favorable observations.

Hold periodic update meetings with your direct reports. These could be over breakfast, or as short staff meetings. The main purposes of these meetings are to show appreciation for the help they’ve given you in your first weeks … and to help both you and them get to know each other better.

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