Starting a job as a manager for the first time rates pretty high on the list of workplace challenges. It is difficult enough if you are stepping into that role, and into a new company for the first time, but I think stepping up within the same company is even more difficult.

A new manager with an existing team, inherits a whole lot of baggage. Bad habits and bad politics. Perhaps there is someone in the team who wanted that manager job? Or perhaps the team has simply been dysfunctional for a long time. So how do you bring such a team to high performance? Lets take a brief look at how a new manager can navigate such a difficult environment…Later posts will delve a bit deeper on some of the points raised below.

Where to start?

A good place to start is by understanding the team (and yourself), what drives them, and what are the similarities and differences within the team. And of course understanding the team should also include discovering what they actually do!

There are multiple ways to find out how people like to communicate, but DiSC is a favourite of mine, and a great way to build rapport within a team, and turn potential conflict into complementary communication.

Finding out who does what is actually a bit more complex. People may be slightly nervous about the new manager. “Why do you need to know what I do” and “Why are you asking me so many questions” are perhaps running through their heads, with the underlying fear, that with a new manager comes change, and change means people lose their jobs. I don’t like change!!!

If people are thinking this way, there is some serious resistance to overcome, and indicates that trust is in deficit. Not surprising given your status as a new manager, especially if your previous role was within the same team.

Partick Lencioni wrote a good book about this, and provides some great resources to help a manager navigate this challenge. Trust is the foundation that allows constructive debate and conflict, commitment to the team and to team decisions, takes accountability, and focuses on team rather than individual results.

Perhaps a lofty ambition, but one that is achievable with careful thought and planning.

Along with building trust and understanding roles and responsibilities, uncovering hidden talent is a vital early step. Allowing people the opportunity to engage their brain and creativity beyond their current role is a great way to build individual and team performance. I frequently hear from people, “my manager has no idea what I am capable of!” Now on the one hand, that individual could work a bit harder to actually demonstrate their talent, but there is no doubt that the manager plays a role in drawing these hidden talents out.

We should note that not all hidden talents can be put to good use, but there is a always a place to recognise and celebrate uniqueness and let it come out in the workplace.

So what do you think? What are the biggest challenges for a new manager?

Are you about to or have recently started a manager role? Contact Ross for a chat on how to move forward with success!

Here are a few more questions for the new manager to think about. The answers to all of these are wide and varied, all of which have their pros and cons. We will explore some of these questions in later posts…

  • What is the vision for this team? How do I communicate this? Do what extent should I engage the team in the development of the team?
  • How do I continually engage the team through change?
  • What management style should I choose, and is this even something I should be choosing?
  • How should I manage conflict as it arises in the team?
  • How frequently should I hold meetings and 1-1 with my team?
  • What is the best form of decision making? Collective?
  • What is the best level of autonomy in team?
  • How do I help the team develop great team behaviours? And what are great team behaviours?

Check in soon for the next instalment!