So you’ve taken on the leadership of a new team, or you are leading for the first time. Either way, you are presented with the challenge of making new connections, and winning the team over so you can collectively get ‘on task’. For many people this is one of the most daunting periods of time; but it doesn’t have to be. Below are four easy steps that will help you and your new team build a healthy rapport - quickly!
“I’m Ok – You’re Ok”. As Thomas A Harris wrote in his book of the same title, look at your own approach first. Are you coming from an authoritative position of one up, or looking to be on the same level as your new team members? In simple terms, let your approach and demeanor reflect a position of acceptance, and being "ok" with those in your new team, irrespective of factors such as their past performance or their working styles.
Build Rapport. Build individual relationships quickly. It doesn’t matter if you have two or twenty people in your team. Get past the point of ‘water cooler talk’, and seek to learn ‘who’ is in your team and what motivates them. It’s easier to inspire, and achieve quick wins, if you know who it is you are leading. At the same time, your team members get to know who it is that is leading them. I once heard a great definition of rapport; it went something like "...the seeking of sameness and reducing differences...". These first two steps are all about doing this...skip them at your own peril!
Trust your team. Don't wait to trust, just do it. This isn't so easy to do if you haven't heard great things about certain members of the team, or perhaps the team as a whole before taking on the job. On top of this you may not know the team at all if you are completely new to the department or company. And let's not even get into the whole discussion around whether you are someone who can trust others easily! Take my advice, and give your team the benefit of any doubt. Make your first mission to give them a chance to shine, and to help set them up for success. The trust you show in your team today will be returned in kind…often when you least expect it, or when you need it most. My experience has been that when it hasn’t worked out with a team member, the transition out of the team is far smoother, and seen as more of a win-win situation; because that’s how we started the relationship.
Balance. Your credibility is at stake; so balance the first three steps with getting across the technical aspects of the job. Don’t do one at the expense of the other. When you are a leader the best results come when you realize that making the time to regularly connect with your people is as crucial to success as the way in which they do their work. Make time for both.
Leaders who adopt these simple steps get rewarded far quicker with a team that wants to succeed, and not just for themselves. They are in it for you too.