Communication misfires can lead to problematic and unhealthy situations within your workplace. It can quickly lead to issues when dealing with customers or each other, reducing sales and overall success within your organization. Here are some lessons we can all learn from this all-too-common issue.
Start With Yourself
Start by asking yourself, "At the End of My Time Leading This Group, What Will My Team Members Say That I Did?"
This powerful and provocative question challenges you to think deeply about your role and about the impact you desire to have in this group. Write down and share your thoughts with your new team. Ask them to hold you accountable for your description.
Your willingness to state your intentions and commitment publicly will earn the respect of your team members. Be prepared to live up to your commitment.
Ask for input from one team member at a time. While you may not be able to avoid being introduced to your new team in a group setting, resist the urge to share your leadership manifesto in this setting.
Instead, quickly move to set up one-on-one discussions with each team member. Use these initial sessions as an opportunity to ask questions. Try: What's Working? What's Not? What do you need me to do to help? Take great notes, and remember that you own the follow-up from these sessions.
The Power of Questions
Questions are your best friend when it comes to gaining credibility with your new team. When you ask someone for their opinion, you are showing that you value their experience and ideas. With this interaction, you are displaying a powerful form of respect. Be careful not to ask for opinions and then ignore the input, or the positive feelings will quickly turn sour.
Learn About the Team's History and Culture
Any group that has been together for any length of time has formed a distinct culture based on a shared history. Listen and learn and ask about the team's prior successes and heroic efforts. Strive to learn how everyone works together and what they view as their collective strengths and gaps.
Find a Feedback Buddy
This feedback buddy plays the corporate equivalent of what the Navy SEALs term a "swim buddy." For the SEALs, everyone in their BUDS training program is assigned an individual who goes everywhere, does everything, and provides help and has your back.
The role of the feedback buddy is a bit less extreme but still essential. This supporting character offers you the frank feedback on your performance that most team members are afraid to give.
The Bottom-Line for Now
The "I'm here and aren't you excited!" new manager is annoying to everyone involved. The point in time when you assume responsibility for a group that is new to you is filled with ample opportunities to misstep and misfire. Don't let your mouth run ahead of your brain. Instead, ask questions, listen carefully, and before you share your opinions, tread softly.