Stepping into a new management role can be daunting. Here’s how to inspire and win the trust of your team
Stepping into a new leadership role can be daunting. Anyone in this position for the first time faces huge challenges to convince their hiring managers they made the right choice. While it’s a time for celebration, some will be afraid how they’ll cope, and worry about how to lead staff effectively and convincingly.
So how can you become a great leader and win the trust of your team?
Act like the new leader from day one
Set the tone of your leadership style from the outset. Be confident, self-assured and respectful with everyone you meet. Speak as you want to be spoken to, and remember to listen. The first few weeks is when people develop their perceptions of you, so work hard to earn their trust. Staff want to look up to their leader, who must set out the desired tone, values and culture from the start; this will be key to effective change and progress
Set bold goals
Part of a leader’s remit is to set bold goals. They could take years to achieve, but they need to be specific enough that everyone in the organisation understands them, buys into them and is willing to work together to achieve them. Bold must also mean achievable.
Trust employees with the truth
Don’t do everything yourself. Great leaders, such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Virgin mogul Richard Branson, surround themselves with talented individuals who can offer their own solutions. Set the vision and determine the goals, but trust people to make it happen. Tolerance is good; indecisiveness is bad. Communicate the vision for the future and if things need changing, tell people and involve them in making the changes. Show your confidence by letting them participate in the design of a new strategy. If the team is too cautious in their approach to change, give them one more chance but with greater clarity.
Stamp out ‘them and us’ culture
In many organisations, employees feel distant from senior management. Leaders need to be aware of this and stamp it out in their organisation. The message must be clear: we all work together, but leaders need to work hard to ensure this filters through to everyone in the organisation.
Don’t rescue people from events
People learn by doing, and letting staff work things out for themselves and make their own mistakes is part of growing as a person and an employee. Times may be tough and change may be complex to cope with, but if the boss wants maximum energy behind the mission then don’t wrap them in cotton wool and don’t let them hide behind processes. The “computer says no” culture is holding back many large organisations.
Allow time for innovation
It’s important to give staff time to innovate and come up with new ideas, different ways of doing things, and solutions to problems. However, be clear that a decision is expected; set a time limit and stick to it. Allow time but be mindful that a good pace is better for business energy.
Honour the business roots
The winning formula for business success will have been created many years ago – but it’s important to remember how the business started. Honour those early pioneers and instil a sense of pride across the organisation. J Sainsbury is a great example of this. The legacy of the supermarket is of a small high street delicatessen store. If Sainsbury’s wants to promote quality, then it has historical proof to fall back.
There is little point having a leader incapable of making a decision, even if it turns out to be the wrong one. Being indecisive can undermine confidence and trust. Leaders must lead, take a chance and make a decision based on the facts to hand. This is the core skill of any successful leader. Gordon Brown as prime minister lost much of the confidence of his close allies when he decided to call a general election in 2007 that he could have won with ease. A lack of decision making and clarity of purpose will lead to a rapid loss of support and credibility.
Be radical, act swiftly
Leaders need to take a risk and be radical in their thinking. Playing it safe is never a good business rule, and leaders must make sure their business stays ahead by acting quickly on new ideas and innovations.
Be passionate, enthusiastic and proud
Practise what you preach. You must believe, in order for people to follow and buy into your vision. Show you are passionate, enthusiastic and proud. People spend a large part of their lives at work, and having a leader who is genuinely excited about the future of the company is hugely motivating and inspiring.
Stephen Archer, director of Spring Partnerships, is a leadership expert and business strategist.