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Enabling a Team to Adapt to a New Manager

Steps a New Manager Might Take the First 90 Days

When a new manager takes over a team that has already been in place, it can be challenging – both for the new manager and the team. In this week’s article, we’ll explore a number of ways to enable a team to adapt to a new manager (and vice versa!) from the perspective of steps the manager might take.

Learning about the Team

If possible, prior to taking on leadership of the new team, get to know more about the team, the goals they are striving to achieve and challenges they are facing in their role. This may be done in a number of ways:

  • Conversations with previous managers (if available)
  • A review of employees’ files
  • A review of the department’s (or workgroup’s) goals and objectives (and, a review of the strategy of the division to which the group belongs)
  • The organizational strategic plan

The goal is to gain a basic understanding of the group you’ll be leading, what goals they are working toward and challenges they may be facing in their role. This information enables for better one-on-one conversations with your team members. This leads us to your first week on the job…

The New Manager’s First Week

The first week should be about learning and understanding; not making changes. You are not in a position this early on to determine changes that should be made. Remember – you need to adapt to the group’s needs, not the group adapting to you.

Some activities to undertake during the first couple of weeks on the job include:

  • Meet with the group as a whole to introduce yourself and set the stage for the week (will be scheduling and holding one-on-one meetings)
  • Review the roles and responsibilities of each individual on your team. Compare what they are doing with their background (look at their resume.) They just may have a number of skills and past experiences that they are not utilizing on the job today.
  • Conduct one-on-one meetings with each employee of at least an hour in duration with a focus on:
    • Current assignments
    • Personal, long-term goals
    • Challenges faced/facing in role
    • Strengths the individual brings to the group
    • Ask the individual – what’s working? what’s not?
  • Take each employee out to lunch or have coffee with them one morning in order to engage in some personal conversation. The goal here is to use this time to get to know your new employee on a personal level and let them get to know you. This is a casual, informal conversation.
  • Review the department’s, or workgroup’s, current strategic and/or operational plan as well as metrics against which the group is being measured.

The goal in the first couple of weeks is to increase your understanding about the group who you are leading and goals that need to be achieved.

After week 2, schedule regular monthly all-team meetings.

The Next 30 – 60 Days

In the next 30 – 60 days, learn more about the department/workgroup, its challenges and the people reporting up to you:

  • Review all processes and procedures (in collaboration with your employees – ask their thoughts/opinions about current processes/procedures being used)
  • Evaluate metrics in use/measured against – what’s working/what’s not? How is the group tracking against current metrics? (collaborate with your team to get their input/thoughts.)
  • Begin to meet/collaborate with peer managers (any changes you make in your group may certainly impact their groups, but you also want to build relationships with them.)

Collaborating with your team doesn’t mean you need to do everything they suggest; but you want their opinions, ideas, thoughts, and concerns for a number of reasons. First, it shows that you are not coming in and assuming things are not working well and immediately need changing – you are spending time learning and evaluating. Second, it shows your willingness to listen to your employees – those who have been doing the job day in and day out – to understand what is working well for them and where changes could be made.

As for meeting and collaborating with peer managers – these are individuals you’ll be working with regularly. You want to spend time to get to know them, and let them get to know you. Additionally, you’ll need to gain some understanding in how your department/workgroup interacts with your peers’ groups/departments.

And, of course, continue your one-on-one meetings and team meetings.

A goal in the next 30 – 60 days is to continue to observe, learn and get to know the team as well as the department. This is when you’ll begin to learn where changes might be undertaken to increase productivity and enable for more effectiveness of your team. By collaborating with your team and peers, you continue to build and nurture strong working relationships, which establishes trust and therefore makes it easier to implement changes that may need to happen.

90 Days and Beyond

Map out Your Strategy

At this point in time you likely have some ideas around your strategic plan to move the department or workgroup forward. These ideas should have been generated from learning more about the group and the department’s goals/organizational goals as well as through conversation with your employees and peers in other departments.
A great team activity to facilitate with your group is developing the strategic and operational plans of the department in alignment with the organization’s strategic plan.

Refine Processes

Once you have learned more about how your department/workgroup functions: how work is prioritized, how work is passed between employees, interactions between other departments, etc. – you will begin to see where areas of improvement are possible. Plus, at this point, you are ready to start to put your own mark on your department. Be cautious. Any changes you make are not in a vacuum. Consider the impact on peer departments (a process change in your area may impact how they get work done in another department.)

For any process evaluation and improvement projects you want to launch, collaborate with your team to get their input (remember – they are the ones doing the work and using the process; plus you will likely find they already have some ideas on how to make improvements!) Once you have selected some key processes for improvement, reach out to peers to share your ideas and determine how changes you may move forward with could impact them.

Develop Learning Plans

During this time, develop learning plans in collaboration with each of your employees. Where do they need to focus on strengthening their current skillsets and in learning new skills/building knowledge in order to continue to perform in their roles? What do they want to focus on (personal goals)?

In summary…

This article provides, at a high level, some ideas to help you kick off the first 90 days when taking over a department or workgroup. Of key importance is getting to know your team and developing working relationships. Don’t make changes until you have gathered data, done research, and gotten input. Before any changes are made, or even considered, you should have a good idea on the challenges the team faces and what is working well for them.

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