One of the more intimidating but significant times in the life of a manager is the start of a new organizational assignment. It’s an opportunity to take advantage of your strengths and work on any weaknesses. And, as with any project, the way you begin is extremely important.
Performing a situational assessment is an important first activity. This will help you identify the major risks, challenges and constraints to accomplishing your mission. Two effective ways to do this and to build trust are to hold an introductory meeting and to have individual get acquainted sessions.
There are differing opinions on whether to have the meeting or individual sessions first. My preference is to hold a meeting as soon as possible. Your new staff is already forming impressions and the sooner you engage, the better the chance you’ll be able to manage their expectations. You might want to talk to your new supervisor and subordinate managers, if you have any, about organizational or staff sensitivities you should be aware of that might influence your future plans.
Here are ten steps to keep in mind while you navigate your first few weeks.
- Focus. Begin and end the kick-off meeting on time. Stick to an agenda and defer more lengthy discussions and digressions to another time.
- Introduce. Ask each person to briefly explain his or her role in the organization (what is their job product or service).
- Share. Summarize your background. Keep it short! Your team will be interested in getting to know you and might also be wondering what kind of manager you’re going to be. Avoid being a windbag.
- Meet. Tell each person you look forward to meeting with them individually to understand how you can help them accomplish their job and to listen to any concerns or suggestions they have. You might say that you don’t believe in change just for change’s sake but are interested in suggestions that will improve process and results.
- Listen. Remember that people have different learning styles. And, these different approaches to communication can be the dividing line between organizational unity and dysfunction. Listening is one of the things you have to do to find out the things you don’t already know.
- Wait. Avoid trying to solve problems – especially the institutional ones – right away. You will want to have your individual meetings and then discuss any issues with your new boss and your subordinate managers before taking any actions.
- Maintain. Don’t lose control of the meeting. Your group might have someone who likes to take over the discussion. If necessary, enforce a two-minute comment rule. The “talker” won’t like it, but the others will love you for it! Use your facilitator skills to give everyone an opportunity to talk; you can go around the room to draw out the quiet ones.
- Reinforce. You can also do a brief exercise to reinforce effective team interpersonal communication norms. Basically, brainstorm how the group would like to work together – a short list of do’s and don’ts without any judgment on your part. On flip chart paper or a projected document, draw a line across the top and a line down the middle – on the left side list behaviors people like to see and on the right side list the things they don’t like – either from their co-workers or you as their boss. This will help you get a better understanding of their personalities and their hot buttons. It will also give you a tool to use in the future to reinforce positive behaviors.
- Engage. Everyone in your new organization deserves respect. Effective managers care about their employees. Progressive leaders don’t hide in their offices, expecting everyone to visit them while they sit on their thrones. Instead, they engage in meaningful discussions with their peers and employees. The individual sessions are get-acquainted and information gathering expeditions. So, listen ten times/talk one time!
- Lead. Finally, a few words about being a successful leader. Having the power and authority to make things happen isn’t the same as being a leader. Set clear objectives, acquire the necessary resources, inspire your staff to care about these goals and then allow them to excel.
Any new job assignment experiences you’d like to share?
Mike Lisagor founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help industry & government executives accelerate and manage growth. He can be reached at [email protected]
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