Thursday, October 23, 2014

Old team; new manager. What to do next? by Stephen Chan

Referred Link -

Happens a lot doesn't it? You move into a new role or a new job and you find yourself responsible for a team that someone else had been managing up to this point.
You have no idea who's who, who's what, and even who's where. So what's a new manager to do?
Here's what I do for the first couple of weeks. (Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary)

Shut up and listen

The best way to learn is to listen. Nobody ever got smart by talking. So I usually spend the first few weeks listening to my team. A lot. Just by listening to my staff I can usually determine who is the go-to person, the reliable worker, the insecure staff, the clueless one, the walking encyclopedia. I also find out who can work independently, who needs supervision and who needs constant motivation (danger!)
Of course, they are not just going to tell you all this stuff. You got to know what questions to ask, when to ask, and where to ask them. I do a mix of formal and informal chats, team and individual. I talk about team roles in the office, and then chat about our families over lunch or coffee. I recognize that my staff are more than just people trying to meet their KPIs in the office. They are regular people like me, with hobbies, family, values, outside commitments. The more I learn about them, I more effectively I can motivate them to use their talents.
Most people do this by asking their staff questions like
  • So tell me about your job
  • What are the challenges you face?
  • What do you do outside of work?
  • blah blah blah....
Let me be frank - these sort of questions are boring, reek of insincerity and could even come across as pompous. If I want to know about their family, I first share about mine. If I want to know about their hobbies, I tell them mine. Opening up first is a great way to break the ice and remove awkwardness.

Clear their doubts

As much as I am nervous taking over a new team, I am aware that it can also be nerve wrecking for the team. Staff usually ask questions like: What's the new boss like? Where was he from? What's his style?
In order to set everyone at ease, I usually tell everyone right from the start how best to work with me. The level of details I like, and how much involvement they can expect from me. I also let them know what I'm good at, and what I am not so good at. This way, all expectations are set correctly. It is important to give everyone a chance to get to know me.
Some staff immediately want to know what plans I have for the team, what sort of transformation and initiatives I have in mind. Usually the answer to that is : none. Unless the team is horribly dysfunctional, drastic changes are seldom necessary. There are usually changes necessary to optimize processes and priorities but nothing ground shaking.

Learn the ropes

Kind of self-explanatory this one. The first week is probably the only window where you will find time to actually learn the organisation's culture, process and pecking order. Do it quickly. Learn the important names, not just the bosses, but also those who are key to your success - people with critical information, with connections, with knowledge. Make friends with as many people in as many levels as possible.
and finally,

Beware of politics

Every organisation has it - some subtle, others more overt. There will be people who will try to influence you into certain 'factions' or power structures. Some will attempt to give you opinions of everyone. Stay away from these people, or at least listen politely but stick to your guns. Form your own opinions - don't be someone's pawn or worse, puppet.

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