What Great Bosses Know about Leading a New Team

You’re the new sheriff in town. That role change may have come from a new job or a promotion or a consolidation of departments in your workplace. Whatever the reason, you’re in charge of a new team.

You have a short window of time to make a positive first impression on your staff. Your actions right from the start can determine whether the staff will see you as just another manager to deal with or as a leader they choose to follow.

Here are six tips to help new sheriffs win over the townsfolk:

1. Tell them what you stand for. Use your introductory meeting with the team as an opportunity to share your values. Talk about what you believe in and what that looks like in practice. Tell them how your values influence your decision-making and your expectations of them. But don’t make that introductory meeting all about you, or it could suggest that one of your values is narcissism. Share enough so they get a feel of what it will be like to work with and for you — and so they look forward to it.

2. Go on a listening tour. Let people know you plan to meet with each person on your team and then do it early in your tenure. These one-on-ones should be their time to share ideas about themselves and the organization. Come prepared with questions that will enlighten your future decisions about strategy. Then really listen. Not good at listening? Read this.

3. Look for buried treasure. Look for people whose talents have been overlooked or who have been miscast in their roles. Ask about skills people haven’t been able to fully utilize, for whatever reason. Unearth any assumptions about boundaries or limits that might be holding back success.

4. Score some “quick wins.” Are there longstanding employee complaints or internal roadblocks that you can resolve early on? Is there a small but important staff goal that you can help them meet quickly? Doing this demonstrates that you listen, care and can get things done.

5. Don’t fear ghosts. The person you replaced may have been a rock star. The staff may be mourning the many changes that have taken place due to a tough economy, and they love talking about how good things once were. Don’t be intimidated by past heroes or happy days. Honor the best of the past and bring it forward as you chart a new course.

6. Build allies. No new boss can go it alone. Your work will be easier if you take time to network among fellow managers. Be collegial, helpful and willing to learn from them. Identify influential employees, those who have earned it for the right reasons, and work to quickly build their trust. When you begin to roll out your ideas and initiatives, this support system will increase your chances of success.

Okay, new sheriff, this should get you started. But I suggest you give a listen to my podcast, too. In “What Great Bosses Know about Leading a New Team,” I share four more tips designed to keep you from shooting yourself in the foot.

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Poynter’s leadership and management expert Jill Geisler shares practical information that’s valuable for bosses in newsrooms and everywhere.

You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or to any of our podcasts on iTunes U.

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