How to take on a new team: Transparency

When a new manager takes over a new team there’s bound to be some mixed feelings, differing opinions, big and small personalities. How do you best gain and maintain authority in this situation?

The impression a new manager leaves on the team in the first few weeks is vital. In this transitional period, it’s important to understand that the team is undergoing change, likely stress, and depending on the context under which the previous manager left, may feel subtly uncertain of their future.

During this transition, transparency is the greatest form of reassurance a new manager can give – both toward their team, and encouraged from their team. An open, collaborative approach allows a new manager to quickly build up a knowledge and awareness of the story they have been placed into, and in this, frame their role in shaping its next chapter.

Don’t assert, absorb

Imagine this – you’re making a cheesecake. You’ve mixed the sugar, the eggs, the cream together in just the right quantities. Then, as you’re about to put it in the oven, someone comes into the kitchen and demands that this cheesecake be made into a mud cake.

A new manager simply asserting their authority and dictating their vision is sure to leave a bad taste in team members’ mouths.

The job, especially in the first few days and weeks, is to absorb information rather than assert authority. And as team members are arguably a new manager’s greatest information source in understanding the state of affairs, used effectively, they are able to truly enhance a manager’s vision and approach – rather than blindly follow it.

Breaking the ice

Meeting one-on-one with each team member early on is therefore a meaningful and effective way of gaining knowledge of the business, earning the trust of a team, and building rapport.

Ideally, these meetings should be as informal and as early into one’s tenure as possible. In them, an atmosphere of openness and mutual interest should be encouraged. A manager should take a genuine interest in each team member’s role, their individual aspirations and trajectory – not just as an employee, but also as a person.

Understanding how your employees like to work will be vital for knowing how to get the most out of your team. If you’re working with millennials, do some research on what skills are required to get the most out of younger teams.

And vice versa – meeting one-on-one is a great way for employees to gain an understanding of their new manager, to ask questions, find common ground, and air private concerns.

Laying out a vision

Once met with the team informally and individually, it’s time for a new manager to articulate their vision to the team collectively. As with the first stage, this should be done as early as possible into their tenure.

By gathering the team together in a purposeful session, sincerely laying out their experience and sensitively but assertively communicating their vision for the team moving forward, a new manager is able to reassure team members of their role while simultaneously qualifying their authority.

Encouraging input

A vision is not a one-way dream – it requires both sides, team leaders and team members, to be in step with one another. Allowing this session to become an open forum, open for questions, comments, concerns and complaints, will also work to remove any unknown entities and reassure team members.

This transparently approach, maintained beyond the first few weeks of their time, allows a new manager to naturally gain their team’s deep respect and trust – but this only works if feedback is taken on board.

After all, when people are genuinely listened to, rather than only feeling listened to, they are more motivated to go in the direction collaboratively laid out.