You’re the Leader with a New Team – Now What?

By Florida Starks

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

You have put in the time, developed impressive leadership skills, and demonstrated unmatched prowess in your field.

You got the job. Congratulations, and welcome to your new team. Now what?

This article will provide a few back-to-basics tips to implement within the first 90 days of managing a new team as seen through the lenses of a service organization leader.

Actions include the following:

  • Team Building
  • Team Mentorship
  • Discipline

Let’s review this further.

1. Team Building

There is something to be said about the many activities in which leaders engage when taking on a new team.

Many activities focus on getting to know team members. Getting-to-know-you activities often involve some form of assessment of what is working or not working within the environment, personal hot buttons, and how team members prefer to be coached.

Team building is accomplished in a number of ways. Creating this culture early and consistently within the first 90 days will create a foundation for successful team interactions.

A couple of suggestions to quickly and easily build team connections include:

Coffee and a Bite to Eat?

Visit the local coffee house. Coffee houses offer the modern-day “happy hour!” This allows the leader to learn about the team, their families, and other life events.

A bonus would be to find a coffee house that serves small meals to extend the conversation. This helps you to learn even more about team members and allow them to see you from a different perspective.

Develop Me

Training is a common way to engage the team in finding ways to determine the right response to situations. Simulations offer the application and development of skills.

In this example, the leader has an opportunity to influence how the team responds to practice drills by offering support through pairing team members and showing the group the commitment to engagement.

Developmental activities build individual confidence in such a way that ‘when the lights’ come on, there is no reason the person isn’t able to perform.

For many leaders, including those in fire protection, and medical and military services, the ability to execute proficiency involves life and death implications.

2. Team Mentorship

Leaders are the team member’s primary mentors.

The role of the mentor involves communicating in such a manner that helps the group understand the reason things are done a certain way.

The foundation for mentorship is trust. When leaders are in mentor mode, it is important to know that trust is a critical element of the relationship.

In many cases, mentees trust leaders to a higher degree than that in ordinary situations.

Consider situations experienced by military leaders and an assigned troop. Troops are required to explicitly trust the leadership to ensure preparation for the tough work ahead.

Not So Fast!

A common misnomer among many leaders with new teams is that people need little information to get on the ‘follow me’ bandwagon.

This is seldom a true assessment and often backfires on the best of leaders. In some situations, the team is unwilling to buy into the new leader. Many team members will measure your leadership worth before demonstrating trust.

Often, this measurement appears in the form of blatant and subtle tests to determine leadership ability. Depending on the leadership role (i.e., organization or type of culture), blatant v. subtle challenges can be viewed differently.

For example, in a highly competitive environment, subtle challenges of leadership ability may be viewed negatively (lack of courage). Blatant challenges may be more welcomed as an indication of fearlessness.

While both potentially impact the level of trust built over time, leaders must be willing to interpret the reason for team member challenges and identify a method for addressing the individual.

3. Discipline

Leaders must be aware of what they say, what they do, and how they act.

Such filtered behavior is especially important within the first 90 days since your team is watching and often waiting for the slightest questionable behavior. Leaders must encourage the use of positive reinforcement and constructive feedback.

This action is primarily achieved by modeling the desired behaviors. Leaders may also utilize individual and team meetings to communicate accepted conduct.

Watch Your Words

Equally important is word choice. Careful selection of words makes a difference in the ability of leaders to influence team members. By sensibly selecting words, leaders are able to more effectively communicate with team members in a way that reflects the true meaning of the message.

Expressing the true meaning equals less room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

Leaders must be willing to receive feedback from team members. This critical activity is a necessary component of building trust.

Leaders who avoid communication and constructive feedback from team members will initiate a breakdown in organizational culture. If the leader approaches the topic again, the team is likely to disengage in the discussion, thus minimizing “esprit de corps.”

How Do You Assess Effectiveness?

Leaders identify team performance effectiveness by reviewing past team performance. Leaders often ask individuals about current and prior performance to determine if the team member can identify actions that have resulted in performance progress.

Team review helps identify the leader’s progress and areas of opportunity.

Caution: This activity is pointless unless the feedback is totally honest. Having this discussion in a location like a coffee house or restaurant allows the team to see the leader from a different perspective and reduces the anticipation of resistance or punishment for honest communication.

Shaping a Plan

Try a few suggestions for size.

Admittedly, some of the suggestions discussed may take you beyond an accustomed area of comfort and leave you feeling a bit exposed!

It’s okay to show your true self to new team members by getting to know them and their needs.

You can shape a plan for organizational success based on your new group. Avoid fitting the square peg in the round circle simply because it may have worked with the last team.

Leadership is not a one size fits all process. Some suggestions work while others don’t. Just remember, adaptation will be necessary, and keep it simple, superstars.

How Can You Handle a New Team?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Florida Starks
Florida Starks
Dr. Florida E. Starks is an Area Training Manager at Verizon. With more than 22 years in corporate higher education, her primary objective is managing new hire training, continuing education initiatives, employee on boarding, and enterprise change strategy.
  • Sanjay Rakecha says:

    Nice informative article.

  • Very concise and accurate article. I recently had the opportunity to take a the leadership role where the challenge was to build a Team, not just several people that reported to me. The approach I took, summarizing everything in the article, we are ALL going to sink or swim together – your choice. Once they could see that I meant just that, the response was amazing and I had the honor of seeing them grow. The best result was at year end, the Team won the company’s highest awward for excellence resulting in one of my team members commenting – “yuo said we were gong to sink of swin together, thanks for showing us how to swim”. That meant more to me than any award given. It is your choice as a leader to make a difference or not. Choose “MAKE”!

    Again, thanks for sharing the article with us.

  • F. E. Starks says:

    Thanks for the comments! Dave, thanks for sharing your story and thanks for MAKING an impact on your team:)

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