Moving into any new leadership role can be difficult. It is even more difficult if you are inheriting a team that has been badly managed or neglected. In these teams you’ve inherited a situation that is a challenge for the most-experienced leaders. The people on these teams could probably illustrate the “how NOT to manage” coloring book.
1. Post Traumatic Manager Syndrome – This happens when your team was previously led by a strong dictator. Your team isn’t used to you soliciting feedback and worse, they are used to having their hand slapped when they do provide feedback.
In this scenario you must move quickly to build credibility and trust. Demonstrate that you mean what you say. Avoid the appearance of punishing those who criticize. When you receive feedback or suggestions, go back and explain why you will or will not be using the feedback.
2. The Manager Change Hangover – know that fuzzy, reluctant, lazy feeling you have the morning after a night of overindulgence? That’s what some of your new teammates are feeling. You may be their third boss in a year. Or perhaps they have never had a manager that works with them on a day-to-day basis.
In many cases your team may feel they are just fine without your oversight or they may not take you seriously because they’ve been through so many managers. There may even be a de-facto leader that your team really sees as a leader.
In this situation you need to garner some credibility very quickly. Listen to your people, based on what they tell you find some quick and easy problems you can resolve on their behalf. Missing access in the system? Get it. Need a product to get their work done? Get it. Demonstrate you are there to help them and you will put in place the building blocks to a good relationship.
3. The D players – unfortunately, it isn’t just Mike Pettine that gets stuck with the previous regime’s “superstars.” You too may have your own version of Johnny Football on your team: someone that was recruited into a role based on their success in a MUCH different company than yours. They aren’t delivering and now you have to get them to deliver or move them out.
As the new leader you are stuck trying to figure out what to do with a guy that keeps fumbling and can’t show up to work on time.
The only solution here is to set expectations and consistently follow them.
“Here are my expectations – You must meet them if you want to be considered for the starting job.”
“Going forward I will hold you to these expectations. You can’t swoop in and work on the high profile projects if you can’t handle the day-to-day.”
Listening to people, demonstrating you care, being consistent and making your team’s life easier is a slow, sometimes-tough and usually-uncomfortable route (if you aren’t uncomfortable at some point with your new team, you aren’t doing something right). You will be challenged. You will be frustrated. You will ask your HR person “why can’t I just fire everyone?”
Resist that temptation. One of the best parts of leadership is delightful surprise – seeing someone step up, seeing someone’s progress and watching them move on in a positive direction. Your team didn’t get to its current state overnight and changing the dynamic won’t occur overnight either.