by Cory Koch
For many years, you have been waiting patiently for your turn to take charge of a group and test your skills. It has happened. You are excited and eager to start and your head is full of creative ideas. You can’t wait to implement, create change, and leave your mark. Before you charge up the hill, there’s something that you really need to handle first.
Successful organizations are built on relationships, and having a solid, trusting relationship with your team is a must. Your team will put out efforts for you just by virtue of your position. They will put forth super-human efforts if they respect you and buy into your vision. The ability to inspire is what sets great leaders apart from the rest. Spend time to build these relationships and you will see a huge impact on your effectiveness as a leader.
Get to Know Them
You don’t need to be their best friend, though it’s helpful to know the members of your team on a personal level. If you are wondering how to begin, maybe start with a few questions like these:
• How long have you been in your position?
• What are your concerns about your work?
• What are some of the biggest obstacles you face?
• How can I help in these areas?
• How would you like us to work together?
• Where do you see yourself progressing in this company?
• How do you feel things are going in this group in general?
If you are new to your industry, and an unknown entity, your team members may be hesitant to bare their souls. Don’t push too hard. Be truly sincere. Show compassion to their true opinions, with the objective of helping them and improving the team. Learn how they contribute to the group and the impact they make. Acknowledge their efforts. Thank them for their honesty. Soon you will build the trust you need to have them openly share what’s on their minds.
When you perform this initial relationship-building right, you will obtain helpful information about the current status of your team, and the challenges that lie ahead. Identify trends and patterns while you analyze your data. From this point on, review your plan for the team and see what needs to be tweaked based on what you have discovered.
Let them Understand You
Be aware that most people do not like change, especially in management. Their last leader could have been Attila the Hun, but at least they knew what to expect. Put them at ease; the best way to do that is to share all information that they want to know but may not be comfortable enough to ask.
You may accomplish this through short staff meetings. There’s safety in groups, and employees may be more willing to ask questions with others present as opposed to one-on-one. Prepare with the intention to have a productive meeting. Even if you only have three items to address, list your agenda, a starting time, and a time the meeting will end. Stick to your agenda and time schedule. This may be their first glimpse at your leadership style, so put forth the effort to make a great impression.
Start by covering the following items about yourself:
• Brief them on your work history – they want to know you are qualified and credible.
• Identify your work style – are you hands-off, or do you love all the details? This will help guide how they will interact with you. If you like to hold daily, weekly or monthly staff meetings, tell them that.
• Share your vision for the team – it may be early in the game, but they need reassurance that their leader knows where they are headed.
• Stress your expectations – in a group setting, this will be basic. If missing deadlines is an offense punishable by death in your book, let them know now. Do you like people to question your decisions? Do you welcome feedback, or should they wait until you ask?
Make sure you allow time for them to ask questions. Encourage communication and notice the dynamics of the group. Spot troubled areas, and note any strength you want to leverage.
Remember, it’s impossible to lead when others choose not to follow. If you are dragging them behind you it will create lot of unnecessary work for you that will only slow your efforts. First set the foundation so they are willing and eager followers, and leading becomes a breeze.