Walking into an existing team as the new manager is tough. People are often wary of a new manager and will be scrutinizing your every word and action, as they try to figure out what to expect from you. If you’re the new boss, here are five things you can do to quickly gain the respect of your team.
1. Take a genuine interest in people, their backgrounds, and the work they do. Meet with people individually and listen more than you talk. Try asking questions like:
- What do you see as the main goals of your role?
- What are the most important things for you to achieve this year? Are you on track to doing that? Are there milestones to meet on the way? What things are you worried might get in the way?
- What’s your most pressing project this week / this month?
- What do you like the most about your job? The least?
- What would help you do your job better?
- Is there anything I should know about how you like to work?
2. Talk to people about your management style and what they can expect from you. What kind of interaction can they expect from you? What types of things do you want to have input on, and at what stages of the work? Do you want email updates or prefer talking in person? What drives you crazy in a staff person that they should know to avoid? I also like to give new employees a rundown of things that I know can be annoying about me – and what they can do to head those things off.
3. Wait a while before you start implementing changes. You don’t have to wait months, but you should wait long enough that you truly understand why things are done the way they are before you change them. You might think you have a better system, only to discover that there’s good reason for not doing things that way – and staff members might not proactively explain those reasons to you if you appear intent on having things your way.
4. Don’t insult the way they’ve been doing things or the manager who led the team before you. You might look around and see badly run systems, glaring holes, and poor decision-making before you; that might even be the reason you were brought in. But be careful how you talk about those impressions, or you may find yourself with a lot of insulted team members on your hands. Even if you think you’re confining your criticism to the past manager, team members will likely feel your assessment reflects on them as well. (And they may still have loyalty to the old manager, too.)
5. Don’t get defensive. Your new team members might be curious about your background. That’s reasonable, so try not to hear it as “prove to us that you deserve this job.” Similarly, keep in mind that change is tough, and having a new manager come in can be nerve-wracking. If people have the occasional moment of resistance or skepticism, don’t let it rattle you. Focus on getting to know the team and how they work and on establishing a foundation for working together.