Build a Bridge to Your New Team
21 August, 2017
"I’m the new leader of a team in my organisation, and I don’t feel that the team is really on my side. I know they need time to adjust to a new boss, but they seem totally detached and I’m worried that this lack of cohesion is slowing down our projects. What can I do to get their buy-in?"
For new leaders, the change in role and responsibilities can be challenging. In addition, you have the whole new "job" of managing a team of people. Here are some different lenses through which to view your task of increasing team buy-in:
It's understandable that your new team might be a bit sceptical about your leadership at first. Real trust is earned not given. Set out to learn how you can earn their trust. You'll discover the most valuable insights by attempting to understand things from their perspective. Approaching the endeavour with an inquisitive and open mind assists with this. Ask, “What constitutes a good leader for them?”,” Who and what inspires their best work?” You don't have the agree with your team's answers, but once you know what it would take to get their buy-in, you can make a more informed decision about what you do next.
Most people don't like change. Be sensitive to this. Are you introducing a whole new swathe of processes that your team have to adjust to? Is your temperament and working style markedly different from that of your predecessor? Look at where you're asking your team to make changes, directly and indirectly. Where can you step towards them and bridge more of the "change gap" yourself?
Remember, change is energy-hungry: all things being equal, most people don't like being demanded more of. The change of leadership and its implications may be just another demand on top of whatever else is going on for someone at work or home.
When you step into a new role, you're filling someone's shoes. Your new team may be using their old boss as a template to scrutinise how you should behave. Indeed, they may have difficulty shifting loyalty from their old boss to you.
Seek to discover what worked for them about their previous leader, and what didn't. Try to get a balanced view of how you show up as a leader. Understand how you can leverage this understanding to find a bridging point to what your team respect and value.
Who did you beat to the post?
There may be people in your team who thought they should have been promoted to your role instead. Other team members may have supported them, and part of their issue with you could be about loyalty to their non-promoted colleague. Once again, try to understand things from the perspective of people in your team - be sensitive and try to be empathetic.
Open a dialogue
Once you feel you've got a grasp on what's working and what isn't, it might be worth opening a dialogue with your team. As much as possible, communicate clearly without hidden messages or unspoken expectations. Before the conversation, remind yourself of your own communication style preferences, and stay open to others' differing styles. During the conversation, take the stance of unconditional positive regard.
Share what you'd like with your team, and communicate what you expect from them. Be understanding about the change that they're going through.
Ask your team what they would like and what they expect from you as leader. Share what some of the change means to you, where appropriate, and show appreciation for what they have done.
You may also wish to consider:
- Engaging your HR team's help, with care not to triangulate any problems that come up
- Taking a team psychometric and doing some team coaching together
How Does Your Interviewer Like It?
Know who you'll be interacting with and how it matters.