Five first steps for new leaders

Learning on the job is not enough – great team managers start the right way.

Five first steps for new leaders
Learning on the job is not enough – great team managers start the right way.

It’s too often assumed that leadership comes naturally; that being a talented broker means you’ll run a great brokerage, or that a popular BDM will make a great group relationship manager. But great leaders don’t wait to accumulate management expertise – they lead their team from day one. Business writer Carolyn O’Hara, writing in the Harvard Business Review, has listed the essentials for your first few months in charge.

1. Get to know each other
Don’t come in on the first day waving a checklist. “People form opinions pretty quickly, and these opinions tend to be sticky,” warns Michael Watkins, the cofounder of Genesis Advisers and author of The First 90 Days. Get to know your team, and, just as importantly, their best and worst experiences, so you know how to motivate them.

2. Show what you stand for
“Team members will want to know how you define success,” Mary Shapiro, author of the HBR Guide to Leading Teams. Tell team members about your vision and values, but also the more specific ways you measure performance, whether that be metrics, feedback, or other methods.

3. Set or clarify goals
Without goals you can’t hold team members accountable, and setting new goals, or mapping how to achieve inherited ones, is best done as early as possible. Be clear how you expect to get to these goals, highlighting the contribution (and responsibilities) of all team members.

4. Keep your door open
O’Hara is a strong advocate of ‘over-communicating’ for new managers. Whether it’s chasing team input or defining team action plans, all will work better if you keep in touch. Over time you and the team can figure out each other’s communication preferences.

5. Score an early win
Early success can demonstrate to your team and bosses that you are actually listening, and you are setting achievable goals. Success may not require creating anything new; it could be reforming an outdated and frustrating work process. Crucially, early success also gives the team momentum: “It motivates people,” says Shapiro, “and can win you goodwill you might need later if the going gets tough.”
Read the HBR article in full here.