How many times have you been the employee working late to meet a deadline while you watched your boss walk out the door? It’s happened to me more times than I can count, and I’m betting it has happened to almost everyone at one time or another. Building a team can best be done by leadership by example. When everyone on the team is working hard except the person in charge (or even if it just seems that way), it creates an environment of us and them.
Most leaders step into a position of leadership with existing teams. When this happens, one of the first things you need to identify are the attitudes of the team you are entering. Realize that while you may have authority it does not make you a leader, it merely puts the accountability on you.
SETTING THE STAGE
One of my favorite ways of accomplishing this is to spend one on one time with each person on the team, no matter their position or experience. I like this initial interaction to be casual and open. It can be very intimidating for both of you, and remember more than likely this has never happened before. They are wondering what your angle is.
I usually open with personal details of my own – how I got into the business, where I live, where I am from, my family, the things I enjoy. Then I ask them to share the same kinds of details. This will help most people relax a little and let them know that you care who they are as a person, not just what they can do in the workplace. Trust starts small and properly nourished can grow and grow!
Ask lots of questions. Just because you are in charge does not mean that you do or even should have all the answers. There really is “no I in team”, and it isn’t about you after all. Each person has much to contribute to the group – don’t ever underestimate someone’s potential because of their experience or position. One of the most frustrating things an employee can experience is the feeling that their ideas and opinion don’t matter- that is the fastest way to shut someone down. One of the most powerful questions you can ask a person is “what do you want?” From the team, this experience, your career? Take any opportunity you can to help people meet their personal and professional goals.
As you go down this path don’t forget that perception is everything. Anytime you are in a position of authority, you are being watched very closely. A new team in particular is watching your actions to determine if you are someone they can trust. Take particular care to do what you say. One of the best ways to close the gap between the “us and them” is to roll up your sleeves and help meet that deadline. Many hands make light work!