Your First Week as Leader of a New Group
When you are transferred or somehow otherwise assume command of a new unit, what happens in the first few minutes, or first few hours, will determine your initial success rate for the first year, at least, of your tenure. Reason: People form an opinion of you very quickly (first impression), and that vision stays with you until supplanted by ideas from events that may play out over the course of several years. It is really important to get off on the right foot with people.
Unfortunately, many leaders come into a new assignment with the wrong attitude. First, it is a mistake to come into a new job with the attitude that everything is messed up. Unless you are taking over a failed unit that is in free fall, it is wise to remain calm initially and seek to understand the strengths and good performance that already exists. The best advice is to keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut in terms of pronouncements early on. Seek to learn, appreciate, and reinforce for the first week or so.
It is a good idea to meet with each employee in the new unit privately to chat about his or her role and generally get to know the individual as a person. This will begin to form some trust between you and the individual. Asking questions about the employee's family and hobbies demonstrates that you care enough to get to know that individual as a person. Sharing some of your own stories also tends to form a basis for trust.
When meeting a new person, the basis for trust to start forming lies in the answer to 5 basic questions. I call these things "a handful of trust."
1. Are you Competent?
2. Do you have good Character?
3. Are you Consistent?
4. Are you Cordial?
5. Do you Care about me?
When you chat with new employees, keep these 5 things in mind and work to answer all 5 of them as positively and quickly as you can.
Second, it is a good idea to refrain from bringing up the excellent policies in your prior position. Many new leaders make the mistake of saying, "In my prior job we used to do this or that." It undermines the will of the people in the new unit. Individuals do not want to hear what went on in the boss' prior position a dozen times a day. It wears thin very quickly.
There is an antidote to this common problem. When I would promote or move a manager, I would ask him or her to refer to the prior job only one time in public. Once that chit was played, I suggested the new leader refrain from other references for at least 2 months. This gave the new leader the opportunity to appreciate the good things that were being done in the new area before giving a lot of suggestions for them to be more like his old area. The people never knew the difference; they just seemed to like the new manager quite a lot.