By Sean O’Neil and John Kulisek
You might not yet be a manager, but you’ve been assured that your time will come. And suddenly, in the middle of a run-of-the-mill work week, your phone will ring, and your boss’ boss will be on the line telling you “congratulations,” that “you made it,” and that “you start next week.” Oh, no.
Once you get the call, logistical concerns will consume you. You’ll need to tell people, move your stuff to a new office, maybe even move to a new city. These are real, time-consuming, and, in some cases, life-altering activities.
Most brand-new managers jump with two feet into their new role, figuring they’ll learn as they go and get training at some point to smooth out the rough edges. There’s nothing glaringly wrong with this approach, but by subscribing to it, you fail to consider one crucial element in the new manager’s process—who will you be managing and what’s the best way to manage them? Failing to consider the team you’re inheriting, and how to shape your policies accordingly, will cost you ramp-up time, productivity, and possibly head count.
New managers looking to make a smooth transition and deliver results right out of the gate need to START right:
Imagine that you get the call to manage a team starting one week from today. Here’s our recommendation for giving yourself an effective START:
Survey the Landscape
Survey the Management
The moment you hang up the phone, start learning more about the hand you’ve been dealt. Provided he wasn’t ousted amid a controversy cloud, the team’s outgoing manager is a great place to begin.
Some questions to ask:
If you don’t have access to the outbound manager, try your new boss or other executives.
You’ll also want to gather objective data—quantitative reports, annual reviews, etc. Neither the objective data nor the anecdotal reports alone will tell the whole story, but the more information you have, the better you’ll be able to connect the dots.
Survey the Team
Speak with current team members. Find out their views of the team—how it performs, what works and what doesn’t, what they recommend as a management style, what they like/dislike about their outgoing manager. We’re not suggesting you take what they say as gospel, but to consider it as another data point that will help you shape how you approach this new team. Knowledge is power.
Tailor Policy and Strategy to Fit the Team
Once you know who you’ve got and what you’re walking into, you can shape your team’s policy. Will you have standing weekly team meetings? Will you demand regular one-on-ones? Will you treat your people the same way? Will you define roles or expect your soldiers to be generalists?
You’ll want your overarching policies to be crystal clear, because they’re going to shape the major decisions that will be flying at you the minute your post begins.
Announce Policies and Strategy
You probably will want to present your strategy to your new boss. This will:
Think about how to roll this strategy out to your team. Depending on the dynamics you unearth during the Survey stage, you might want to prepare certain individual team members for what’s coming in advance, or do a cheesy over-the-top kickoff to announce the arrival of a completely new guard.
Roll Out the Plan
This is either going to be the easiest part or the hardest part. Close your eyes, press the button, and hope like hell it works. We’re kidding—a bit. You needn’t close your eyes, but we encourage you to let the plan ride for 30 days. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your team be. Everyone will need to adjust to your new regime, work out the old and conform to the new, and generally find the team’s new level.
Tweak the Plan if Necessary
On the one-month anniversary of your start date, you’ll have useful data and be better equipped to optimize your plan further. Perhaps your plan has helped bump productivity from a good handful of your reports that warrants a reduction in oversight from you.
Feeling brave? Ask team members for their feedback…on you. Host a Start-Stop-Continue exercise, in which team members list all things they would like you to Start, those they would like you to Stop, and those they would like you to Continue doing. This isn’t for every manager or every team, but it can be a nonthreatening way for them to provide you with useful information about you.
We’re trying to get your management career started right by having you take stock before you even step into the role. You need not incorporate the entire START program to find success, but increasing your awareness of the situation you’ve been hired into, and tailoring your plan accordingly, can only serve to improve the likelihood of a clean transition to management.
Sean O’Neil is a principal in One to One Leadership, a management consulting and leadership training firm founded 12 years ago by his mother, Mary Ann. Since he joined the firm six years ago, O’Neil has added more than a dozen new clients to the roster, including Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association, and the Royal Bank of Scotland. He speaks on the topic of management around the U.S., and has been profiled in national business publications.
John Kulisek is senior president and CEO of The Norben Group, a multinational sales and consulting firm based in the U.S. with partners and suppliers domestically and in China, Hong Kong, and Thailand. He also serves as senior vice president of Content Development of One to One Leadership.
For more information on their book, “Bare Knuckle People Management: Creating Success with the Team You Have—Winners, Losers, Misfits, and All” (BenBella Books), visit http://www.bareknucklepeoplemanagement.com/