Trust before Teamwork - the new manager playbook
The most common question I get from new managers is what to focus on during their first 6 months as a manager. Congratulations - this in itself is a great sign because it means that you care deeply about how you are showing up and whether you are doing right by your team. It also means that you are taking your responsibilities seriously and that you are not afraid to be vulnerable, ask lots of questions and earn your place on the team.
Make no mistake - trust needs to be earned by both sides. You are neither entitled to it because you got the job nor because of your rank or title in the organization. Equally, as a team member you are not automatically in the backseat waiting to be won over - you have an active role in making this critical partnership a success.
Humility is key to approaching a state of mutual trust building. As a new manager, your position of authority creates a sense of anticipation and fear in the minds of the team - this has nothing to do with anything you have said or done but rather from years of expectations setting that corporate behaviors have created for much of the working population.
Sounds logical, right? Well, in my experience, it is not always intuitive on how you can build trust while still landing your own position of expertise and respect on the team. If you go in with humility as your core principle and defer to your team all the time, how then will your peers and seniors respect you for what you bring to the table? While these sound like polarities at first glance, they are actually fairly simple to tackle if you think of them as sequential elements of what you seek to achieve in your first 100 days.
Tip 1: Be the architect of your team's success. Get to really know your team. Ask them questions on what helps them excel and where they want to go in their careers. Find out how you can champion them everyday and how they want to be motivated to succeed. Build genuine relationships with your team members so that you understand their intentions clearly and you are actively engaging them in designing their path to professional success.
Tip 2: Leave your insecurities at the door. We all have them so know that you are not alone. Stop doubting yourself and take confidence in knowing that you are there for a reason even though you may be lacking the expertise that your team is showing today. Be open and vulnerable with where you are in your own journey, articulate your objectives and where you want to go together as a team and hold yourselves accountable to get there together.
Tip 3: Don't try to be perfect. No one trusts a perfectionist. Mostly because being perfect lacks a certain authenticity that one needs to be fully trusted. Instead, your team will appreciate knowing that you are human, that you too make mistakes, that you are not always sure of the right answer but most of all, that you are always true to who you are. Let your team know that you are keen to create an environment where you not only appreciate their uniqueness but that you actually celebrate them as they are.
Tip 4: Give real and honest feedback consistently. Why? Because it shows that you care and that you are not avoiding the difficult conversations. I cannot stress enough the importance of feedback in building a trusted relationship. Break down the opportunities you see for professional growth and development, share examples of your own mistakes and create an environment where your team members do not constantly feel judged. It's important to have room to take risks, grow and fail and this only happens if your team trusts you will not use it against them.
My parting thought for you as a new manager is to, first and foremost, enjoy the relationship you create with each member of your team. It's the people around us that make work special and it's important for you to realize that success is not a zero sum game. You don't have to get ahead at the cost of your team or your peers. In fact, any time you find yourself in a situation where that does not hold true, recognize the toxicity that brings into your life and hold your head up high for what you believe in. Enjoy being a manager - watching your team members soar is often reward in itself!