How To Lead New Teams (Without Destroying Them)

Congratulations! You’re the new ‘rising star’ executive, tasked with running a critical division of the company.

Whether you were promoted from within or newly hired into the position, this is an opportunity to prove yourself at the next level.

Knowing how to lead new teams is essential, as expectations placed on you are high. The pressure is on, but you’re feeling excited, nervous and eager to dive in and get started.

If you’re like the majority of new executives I work with, “getting started” means prioritizing  the following tasks as your out-of-the-gate agenda:

  • Assess your teams and determine who stays, who needs to leave now, and who you’ll hold onto for the short-term but likely get rid of later;
  • Analyze existing strategies and processes to identify where the problems are, what’s broken and what needs to be fixed; and
  • Define a vision, and then activate the remaining team to effectively implement it.

This all sounds good … in theory.

But time and time again, I see promising executives sabotage their department, their teams (and, as a result, their own rise to glory) by handling the above tasks BADLY!

So where are they going wrong?

It’s their attitude! By embracing a toxic mindset toward accomplishing the above tasks. I call that approach …  “going cowboy.”

It’s the proverbial “there’s a new sheriff in town” power play in which the new boss takes over and immediately starts laying down the law, shooting up the town, pushing around the citizens, and otherwise trying to establish their own authority and dominance.

And this is the worst approach possible if you truly want to drive positive results and lead strong, engaged teams.

So what should they (and you) do instead?

Here are six ways to lead a team (without destroying it) and earn respect (without shooting yourself and your career in the foot).

  1. Walk in with genuine respect for your team
    What’s the fastest way to alienate your team? … Walk in acting like you know more about their job, theirprojects, or their strengths and challenges than they do. If they’re still here, it probably means they know something that you need to know. So, show a little respect to the wisdom they hold. This is their world you just walked into.
  2. Be curious, not self-congratulatory
    Sometimes we mask our own anxiety by over-compensating, and we end up coming across as insensitive, overly assured, even arrogant. Avoid the urge to name drop your former company or start off by bragging about your previous career successes. No one cares!Instead, take an interest in this new company, your new team, and their stories. Ask questions (sincere questions). Not to find out what’s wrong, but to learn about the company culture and the team spirit.
  3. Take time to identify the informal leaders
    Often the person people truly follow is not the official leader in charge; it’s a peer they trust, a fellow colleague they admire. Spend some time figuring out who the informal leaders are on your team and what positive value they bring to the team dynamic. Rather than feel threatened by them, get to know them. Bonding with those informal leaders sends a message to the rest of the team that it’s safe to trust you.
  4. Wait awhile before redefining the team’s vision and mission
    Put your blazing guns in their holster! Your team doesn’t need you tearing up the town before you’ve even taken the time to get the lay of the land. Get to know the individuals you’re leading and the nuances of the project at hand  first. Your vision should flow and build upon what your team created before you.
  5. Right away, take excellent care of the people you lead (even those you may part ways with)
    Every employee has friends in this company (and others). Their feedback is essential in creating either resistance to your leadership or respect for it. Don’t keep your team at arms lengths and watch them fail while you’re “assessing” their skills for determining who stays and who goes. Help everyone who needs it.Likewise, avoid creating cliques (the ones you trust and the ones you don’t). Many executives make the mistake of judging people too quickly and end up relying on the wrong people. Treat each team member with professional care and respect from Day One.
  6. Finally, be gentle with yourself 
    YES, I said “gentle.” We often forget to acknowledge the toll change (even positive change) takes on us. While you pour yourself into this challenge, remember to take healthy care of yourself and stay grounded in your values.

Look, I get it — You were just handed a new position of authority, the powers that be are laying on the pressure while simultaneously praising you and acting like you’re the company savior. You have a few months to prove yourself. You just want to do a great job (and maybe look like a superhero rock star in the process).

I want that for you, too.

But companies hire me over and over again to help mend broken relationships and teams dynamics that were fractured by trigger-happy leaders “going cowboy” in their new positions.

Trust me when I tell you — easy, Cowboy.

Successful leaders don’t prioritize power and dominance.

Successful leaders focus on establishing mutual respect, clear communication, and leading a team with an inspiring shared mission.

Nathalie Salles helps global leaders and diverse teams elevate their innate excellence in order to make dynamic progress toward their specific goals, strategies, or vertical growth vision. Visit Abundant to learn more.

This article originally published on LinkedIn.

Categories: Coaching, Leadership, Organizational culture, Team Building

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