A new manager’s early success is built on the twin pillars of trust and respect. Your management hired or promoted you because they trust that you can do the job. Your new team trusts that management is right, and you can lead effectively. Doing so earns you their respect.
Here are some things you can start doing right now to win the trust and respect of your new team:
Schedule regular one-on-one meetings and strive never to miss them. Give your team regular time with their manager where the goal of the meeting is to understand what they need to be successful. This session is about them, not you or their goal results, per se. Do your best to schedule around these meetings. Be proactive about making the meeting happen. I will go to my employee’s desk for their one-on-one instead of waiting for them to come to me. I want them to know I take their time and needs seriously.
Set reasonable expectations for the things you commit to doing. During your one-on-one meetings, your employees will tell you want they need to be successful. Some of these things are well within your ability to address. Others, less so. Be transparent and forthcoming about what you can do and by when. If the request requires investigation on your part, let them know that as well. If you know for a fact that the request is beyond the organization’s capability, let them know that too (say something like “tell me why you feel that is necessary”). If something you promised is going to take longer than you hoped, keep your employee informed.
Never surprise with bad news.
Set a theme for your leadership and stick to it. During my tenure as a first-time manager, I decided that my “theme” would be fairness. It was important to me that my employees saw me as a fair manager. Having a theme defines who you are and how you project yourself to others around you. In meetings, I could be counted on to bring balance to a discussion. Sometimes this meant being the voice of a stakeholder. Other times it meant siding with an unpopular position. My team knew that they could approach me with anything, and I would give it a fair review, whether I initially agreed with the position or not. Find your theme and do your best to summarize it with one, distinct word.
Be real, vulnerable and authentic in everything you do. If you made a mistake, own it and apologize. If you regret that you can’t meet a request, admit it and then look for an alternative. If you’re disappointed in a decision they made, tell them so professionally and then seek to understand their thinking. A strong manager is not one who never makes a mistake or shows weaknesses. A strong manager is one who owns her mistakes and remains professional and focused in very vulnerable situations. This is the behavior you want from your team. You should model it whenever possible.
Your team wants to know that they have time dedicated to them and that you value that time too. They want to know that you will be reasonable in what you promise and deliver on your commitments. Your team wants to know what you stand for and that you will stand by your values. They also want to know that you’re one of them, not holding yourself above them as infallible.
Your team wants a rock they can depend on when things get rough. Show them that you are that rock and you will find yourself supported by the trust and respect you need to move everyone forward.