Are you really excited about going to leading a team? Want some preparation to make your first day good as a team leader? We can help you to prepare for your first meeting with your team. So, follow all given steps on our blog “Top Things What New Leaders Should Do First” to make your first meeting count.
Getting clear on your own goals, developing relationships with team members, using the right leadership styles for your team’s stage of development, having a clear charter to guide your team’s activities, and fostering a climate of trust will get you started on the right foot.
Stepping in to lead a new team can be an exciting time for a leader. Here are the 10 things great leaders should do first:
Be Prepared: Show Up Energized:
- Whether you’re taking over an existing team or starting a new one, it’s critical to devote time and energy to establishing how you want your team to work, not just what you want them to achieve.
- Be prepared. For example, consider:
- Have you reviewed the agenda for both content and timing?
- Are you clear on the anticipated take-away and next steps post-meeting?
- Have you planned how you will create interaction during the meeting?
- Have you secured the meeting space/conference line?
- Have you rehearsed with all of your technology?
- Have scheduled getting enough sleep the night before?
- After a smooth start, you sense that conflict is emerging. It’s a lot easier to show up energized when you’ve done your homework. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Get to Know Each Other: Put Relationship before Task:
- Your first act as a team leader is to establish a relationship with team members and between team members. Social and communication skills are critical in this early stage of team formation, so be patient.
- “One of your first priorities should be to get to know your team members and to encourage them to get to better know one another,” says Shapiro. Get creative, and create opportunities to deepen relationships starting on Day 1.
- One particularly effective exercise is to have people share their best and worst team experiences, says Shapiro.
- Discussing those good and bad dynamics will help everyone get on the same page about what behavior they want to encourage — and avoid — going forward.
- Making Good Small Talk: Small talk is fundamentally about building relationships, so you shouldn’t try to eliminate it entirely in an attempt to keep meetings efficient.
Build a Climate of Trust:
- The number one priority for you when stepping in as a new leader is to build trust with your team. If you don’t establish trust, your team will constantly be working against you.
- Once a climate of trust is established, you will be able to implement new ideas and move the team to higher levels of performance.
- You should have expectations, assumptions, and preferences of how people should work with you and work together.
- Use your initial interactions with team members as an opportunity to showcase your values. “Team members will want to know how you define success,” says Shapiro.
- By communicating your vision and values, you will show your team that you’re committed to a healthy degree of transparency, says Watkins, and “create positive momentum around yourself in the new role.”
Make Implicit Assumptions Explicit: Explain How You Want the Team to Work:
- You also need to explain in detail how you want the team to work.
- When you have newer team members coming on board, don’t assume that veteran team members will explain to the new recruits how meetings are supposed to be run or the best ways to ask for help; it’s your job as a leader to set expectations and explain processes.
- Sharing your implicit assumptions is a great way to deepen authenticity. By keeping it real, you avoid the leadership trap of the “superhero complex”. There’s no need to be all-seeing and all-knowing.
- Show your team you’re genuine from Day 1 and they’ll respond in kind. It creates a much more collaborative team dynamic.
Make the Meeting a Discussion:
- You just had the best team meeting ever! Members were excited, they contributed ideas, celebrated, and shared their progress, and they seem to respect you as their leader.
- Just like you, your team members have their own preferences and expectations.
- If you want your team to show up to that first meeting focused, energized, and excited, then you need to model those same qualities.
- As Albert Schweitzer put it, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” A kick-off meeting isn’t just a meeting: it’s an experience.
- As you structure the Day 1 meeting, find ways to create dialogue, participation, discussion, and Include the team. No one likes to be lectured at. By sharing ownership, and creating more autonomy, the needle will move away from mere compliance towards commitment.
- Prepare the Meeting Space: If you are meeting in person, choose a neutral space, such as a meeting room. Consider seating, temperature, and lighting to make the room as comfortable as possible. This will help to reduce stress and to promote communication.
Set Communication Norms:
- Communication is the lifeblood of every team and organization. What will you do to make sure that it’s effective on your team? Establishing communication norms is such a vital subset of “making implicit assumptions explicit” that it’s worth taking time to laser in on specifics. For example:
- How often should the entire team meet?
- How often should subgroups meet?
- What’s the best method for communication?
- What are our expectations for “timeliness” in replies?
- Are late nights/weekends off limits or within reason?
- Establishing these norms can avoid a lot of stress down the road. If you go slow upfront and clarify these norms, you’ll be able to speed up further down the road.
- If you don’t make norms clear for everyone, you risk creating an environment where people feel excluded, uncertain, or unwilling to contribute.
Share the Team’s Common Purpose and Goals:
- Are you leading a team or a working group? Get clear yourself first. There’s nothing wrong with leading a working group. Just don’t call it a team, and expect it to act like one.
- If you’re leading an actual team, share your vision for the team’s reason for being. Then, create opportunities to get input on the team’s vision so there’s co-ownership of that final vision.
- A real team calls for people to create joint work-products and craft goals that involve mutual accountability. This means working together and navigating the conflicts that are bound to come up along the way.
- Then, work together to set collective goals and milestones for the team. Don’t let Day 1 end without clarity on what the team is ultimately working to achieve.
Capture Ideas: Review or Create a Team Charter:
- If you set the right tone, you’re going to have a lively and engaging first team meeting. Ideas may be bouncing off of the walls.
- A team charter is a set of agreements the team develops that outline why the team exists, what its goals are, and how team members will work together to live out their purpose.
- If your team already has a defined charter, this is a good time to review it and see if it still accurately captures the purpose and goals of the team. If your team doesn’t have a charter, schedule sufficient time to work through these elements.
- Developing a team charter isn’t touchy-feely team-building nonsense; it’s important to work that sets the foundation for how your team will operate moving forward.
Convert Ideas into Actions or Next Steps:
Converting an idea into a reality (regardless of the required investment of time and money) is never an easy task. In fact, it is extremely difficult.
- As the leader, be ready to activate ideas by asking “How can we turn this idea into reality?” or “Who will do ___? By when can you finish that?”
- Find champions for each selected next action. The actions you choose can become project milestones, and give the team momentum and a feeling of progress moving forward.
Use the Appropriate Leadership Style:
- At this stage, the leader needs to provide high direction such as setting goals, establishing processes, and getting people up to speed on their respective tasks.
- Now is the time for flexible leadership, not a domineering or controlling approach.
- At this stage, leaders are focused on helping the team consider new challenges or removing roadblocks to help them continue their great performance.
- Explain what’s behind each of your decisions, what your priorities are, and how you will evaluate the team’s performance, individually and collectively.
- Walk them through what metrics you might use to gauge progress so that they understand how they’ll be evaluated and what’s expected of them.
- As the team leader, you have a unique situation on Day 1. Your team members still have an open mind. They’ll give you the benefit of the doubt if you lay out a compelling case for why they should stay excited and engaged moving forward.
Follow-Up and Thank Team Members Personally:
- Just because the meeting ends doesn’t mean that you have to retreat into “business model”. People are still social animals who want to be recognized and valued.
- You taking the time to follow up to appreciate someone personally send a very clear and energizing message. (By the way, handwritten notes work wonders.)
- Feeling appreciated is a catalyst of well-being, which is a key driver of engagement. The cost (mainly time) to you is rather small, but this act will pay huge dividends. Start this practice on Day 1, and continue as you move forward. A rule of thumb: thank early and thank often.
Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression on the first day of your work as a team leader. Do a great job with your Day 1 kickoff, and your team members will be smiling, too.