Death by a thousand paper cuts – the ultimate result if you drip feed your vision to your new team, instead of being open and honest about the changes that will impact them.
When you start as a new manager, the first question that your team will ask (and if they don’t ask you directly, you can bet they are thinking it) is, “Where are you taking this team?…What changes are going to happen and why?”
But is it really helpful to just say to your team, “here is my vision, get on board”? I don’t think so. Before people can actually get on board, there must be a base level of trust, and team members should be able to understand the impact of your vision. Developing trust is not a quick and easy thing to do, however the way in which you communicate your vision can help to build trust, which will ultimately lead to higher levels of performance.
Here are just a few tips…
1. Establish your “A” Team
Get a few people on board quickly and establish your A team. It is hard and lonely to do things on your own, and in the end it will be hard to get any body on board if you act like a lone ranger. You may think this is a bit like playing favourites. When you announce your vision to the rest of the team, a common negative response will be “Why am I only being told about this now?” People think that they should have been involved from the beginning and so get offended when they realise they are not on the A Team.
What can you do about this? Lay out the plan, and be open as to who is going to be a part of your vision development team. Say that you will be delivering information as the vision and plan is developed, but also seek input and ideas from others as much as possible. Don’t say you are developing your vision, and then leave people hanging for a few months! This will only create tension, and people will certainly be whispering behind your back!
2. Realise that not everyone will be happy
The reality is that not everyone will like your vision and some people will be negatively impacted. Perhaps your vision does not include a focus on their speciality area, or in the new team, some roles will not have as much autonomy as they once did. The best way to deal with the bad news is to get it out early and be clear on what the impact will be as opposed to drip feeding your team small pieces of information about the change, until they eventually get sick and tired of constant small change. Death by a thousand paper cuts is not pleasant for anyone. I saw this happen in a large organisation that I worked with. The situation involved a new smaller group integrating into a larger organisation. In order to preserve peace and the ego of the smaller group, the spoken strategy was to leave them alone, with no management changes, but behind closed doors the intent was to completely change the management structure. What happened was a gradual erosion of autonomy for that smaller group, a breakdown in trust, until they eventually felt they were being very poorly treated, and most of the leaders left!
3. Don’t shield the team from potential bad news
Being honest and up front may feel very painful, but death by a thousand paper cuts will only lead to a mass exodus and the destruction of any respect they may have for you.
You may think that the team should be shielded from tough news, or that they really have no interest in getting involved, or you think that the team can’t handle the news. This is just coming from your own fear, and fear of what their response will be…And its true, their response may be very hard to deal with, but you will gain more respect through being open, than through hiding information.
4. Communicate next steps
The vision is just the first step. Now you need to get there! Let the team know your implementation plan and ask for lots of input around ways in which the vision can be achieved. And if you have created and shared your vision well, then you should now have a team that is well on their way to high performance.