New Lens Required
Often I get people asking me how to ‘onboard’ with their new team. (As a leader, this is very critical to your future success.)
The challenge new leaders often face with a newly acquired team is this - they move too quickly into action to make changes and overlook spending time enrolling their new team in THEM as a leader.
The outcome. You shut people down and you have to work thrice as hard to reengage them. Often I will see teams disengaged not from the work, but from the leader who comes in approaching things in their old pattern and forgetting that a new lens to frame thing.
Now the tendency often is to go right in and start telling everyone what you are going to do and what changes you want to see made. My coaching advice is that you pause, reframe your approach and adopt the start, stop and continue model. The "new to you" team requires time and effort and energy from YOU as an approach to getting to know them and their current workload...first. When you do that first you get to take greater strides out of the gate.
Here is one path to implementing this feedback loop with your newly acquired team. Within your first week, set a meeting and say to all you want to do a fun exercise. Then take them through the Start. Stop. Continue exercise seeking the view from their chairs. Your focus is to encourage all to participate and share. You are ONLY taking notes by the way. Not committing to anything but being an active listener.
Ask them what things they want to start doing. You frame this as “you've been here longer, you know, the goals that you've had in front of you, what do you want to start in order to accomplish those goals.”
Ask them to talk to you about some of the things they want to start doing to achieve their current goals. Let them know you aren’t looking to change their goals at this time. Enroll them in you by letting them know we're still going to keep the goals that have been put in front of us to achieve.
That one element will draw people in and let their defenses down with you as the new leader. You are letting them know to keep working on what is before them and that you are here to support them.
Then ask them. “What do you think we should stop doing?” Have them even talk in small groups (depending on the size of your team) and then share with the large group. This is to hear from them what they see as the potential weaknesses or threats (from a SWOT perspective).
**Important: Let them know you aren’t committing to doing or implementing any of these, you are just learning from them at this stage.**
And wrap it up with “what do we want to make sure we continue?”
You might be asking, Why does this exercise, as a brand new leader with a brand new team that you've just acquired matter?
Because it shows the team that you're there to listen to them? You're curious about the view from their seat, if you will, how they view the team and their performance collectively. And it helps you to learn their thought process. How do they dwell? Do they lean toward the negative? Do they lean toward the positive? It's going to help you to identify who are the creative ones. Who are the silent ones, and who are the ones that are going to be more verbose? You're going to learn a lot just by observing how they work in that process.
Your role is to ask them questions like… Tell me more. Why or Why not? If not this then what? What do you need from me to be successful? What more do you want me to know? What if we didn't do that? What would the outcome be?
Spending time in this way, right out of the gate with the entire team gives you a great view of their internal operating system. You are there to learn and listen, observe and connect. By doing this, you will move forward with the team in a healthy direction clear of how they view the opportunities before you. If you leave this step out, you will spend a lot of time trying to piece together information that is critical to the collective success.
Take a moment to think back to a time you had a new leader, how did they approach the new team? Did you feel seen and heard? That is the goal. No need for immediate change or action other than to engage in building trust from day one.