Managing new teams:
When appointed to lead a new team, it’s natural to want to deliver results and make your mark. However, it’s important to take your time and ensure you are establishing yourself with the team through credibility and trust, while taking the time to understand the dynamics and history of the work, before charging ahead.
To begin, it’s important to understand the team members you will be leading. To start, ensure you ask your hiring manager what the team climate is like. Review each individual in terms of past performance levels, career track, and level of acceptance. If, for example, one of the team members applied for the position you are now occupying, you may have some work to gain their support and trust. It’s important that you take this feedback in context. It’s one opinion from a level not directly involved in the day to day activity of the team and while useful, you will need to formulate your own opinions and start with a clean slate.
Next, you should speak to each team member individually. Give them some time to talk to you about how the team is working, what the key strengths and challenges are. Ask them about their career to date and future aspirations. Allow them to share their history with you so you know how to provide growth opportunities and work assignments according to their interests. Try to get a sense of their style and approach: Do they like structure or freedom? How do they like to be recognized? What do they expect from their leader? Ask all of these questions to get a better sense of your team members.
Understanding the Work:
Once you’ve met with each individual, start establishing your communication approach. Begin as an observer in the regular team meetings and ask if the format is effective and whether it should continue. Find out what is working on the team, how they communicate with one another, and where the challenges or opportunities are. Don’t solution yet – it’s time to gather information only.
Depending on the maturity of your organization, there may or may not be formalized service or task descriptions for each team. If one exists, review it with the team to get a sense of the frequency and complexity of each task they perform. Find out whether all team members perform this task or if it is only a select few. If a list does not formally exist, create one as a team. Ask where there is formal documentation around each task and identify the risk areas (where there is no documentation or limited resources who know how to do this). This will eventually turn into your job shadowing or risk mitigation plan.
Find out whether there are any related SLAs (Service Level Agreements) or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) surrounding each task. Ask the team if these measurements are accurate, whether they are meeting the set levels consistently and if they think these can be improved. This will eventually feed into your goals for the quarter or year, depending on how your performance cycle runs.
Read more on setting team goals and performance measurements in our next edition of Managing new teams!