Congrats – your hard work and talent have paid off and you’ve just scored your first leadership role!
But, eek, you might be an awesome accountant, but you’ve never had to manage a team before.
You may be daunted about walking into a team of strangers who are looking to you to improve their lot or, even scarier for some, it may be a promotion at work, which means you’re going to be bossing around your old colleagues.
Don’t sweat it – you’ve been chosen because you have the skills to make a positive difference and to improve the working lives of everyone on your team. But to ease the first-week nerves, here are the first five things I’d recommend you do in your cool new leadership role.
1. Only fools rush in
Even though you might be encouraged to make your mark or make a big impression in your first week, you shouldn’t.
Blaze in like a bull in a china shop and you could just make a name for yourself that you’ll never be able to shake. As keen as you are to make a difference, the first week isn’t for big changes. Instead, scrawl down all of your first impressions, your plans and your ideas. Then hide it away in a drawer for a month.
2. Be observant
Now’s the time to see if your first impressions have any merit. Use your first few weeks as a fact-finding mission, gathering intel on who is who, how things operate and what areas need improving.
Ask as many questions as you like: why is this done like this? What other things have you tried? What do you think of the company? What do clients think of the company?
Remember: we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
3. Tell them what you stand for
A company’s core values are integral to a team working in the way you want them to – and so are a leader’s. Make it clear how you like to operate, what won’t wash with you, what your hopes for the department/business are, what your priorities are and how you like to communicate.
Many teams don’t like change and are apprehensive about what their new boss will be like – be straight-forward with them so they don’t have to play guessing games. They’ll get on-board with you faster if they know the plan and end goal.
4. Get a win on the board
Once you determine a quick (and hopefully inexpensive) change that will improve the way your team operates, put it straight into action.
Demonstrate to your team that you’re there to help them do their job better and that you’re willing to make changes to make that happen – people work harder for a leader who works hard for them.
The change doesn’t need to be huge – it might be as simple as empowering your team to do customer refunds without your sign-off. To make the biggest impact here, find a solution to the one thing that seems to frustrate most of the employees you’ve spoken to. This early win should hopefully get them on your side and garner enough goodwill through future, possibly trickier, changes.
5. Get the new kid to polish up your name plate on the door
Kidding. Don’t be a douche – that’s not going to win you any favours.
There’s a difference between “a boss” and “a leader” – people follow leaders they like and respect. Getting them to do your unnecessary dirty work doesn’t really help those two things.
Make a point of getting to know the team and establishing a strong relationship with them. Schedule some initial one-on-one meetings with all members of your team. Use this time to introduce yourself and to find out who they are and what they do (right down to the details of their day), what they do and don’t like about their job, and how they think the workplace/business/product or service could be improved.
What you get in these meetings can often be gold – as well as having new ideas or perspectives you may not have considered, some employees aren’t used to someone from management asking them for their opinion, so it goes a long way to building trust. Find out what motivates them personally (and what demotivates them) in order to determine how to get the best from them.
Then, finally: get that list you wrote in the first week out from your bottom drawer.
Which of your initial thoughts still hold stock? It’s time to start leading…
Zac de Silva is co-founder of the Nurture Change Business Retreat, five days in Fiji where awesome Kiwi business people get together to connect, relax, learn and be inspired by incredible business and wellness speakers, including Icebreaker’s Jeremy Moon, Emerald Group’s Diane Foreman, Olympian Hamish Carter and Murray Thom of Personalised Plates and The Great NZ Songbook fame. You’ll find excellent examples of leaders at this conference, trust us!