When taking on a new managerial role, it is critical to establish how you want your team work and what goals you wish to achieve within the first several weeks, Carolyn O'Hara writes in the Harvard Business Review's "HBR Blog."
But many new leaders do not take the time to do so.
More on management from the Harvard Business Review
According to Michael Watkins, co-founder of Genesis Advisers author of The First 90 Days, the first few weeks as a team leader are critical in letting the team know how you want it to function. "People form opinions pretty quickly, and these opinions tend to be sticky," he says, adding, "If you don't take time upfront to get the team working well, problems are always going to come up."
O'Hara lists several steps that managers should take at the start of their tenure to establish group norms and create an environment that fosters teamwork and productivity.
- Get to know each other. Managers should encourage camaraderie by holding a welcome retreat or starting meetings with team-building exercises. For teams that work virtually, hosting virtual happy hours or coffee breaks could be a good alternative. Discussing positive and negative team experiences will also help everyone get on the same page about what types of behavior they want to nurture in their team.
- Showcase your values. It is important for managers to explain the thought process behind their decisions, their priorities, and how they plan to interact with team members. In addition, managers should specify to team members how they will be evaluated and what is expected of them.
- Lay out expectations for how you want the team to work. Managers should explain in detail how they want their team to work instead of relying on "veterans" to explain the ropes to new employees. O'Hara notes that not providing this information could make some team members feel excluded.
- Keep the door open for communication and feedback. According to O'Hara, it is better for managers to start with more communication at the beginning and then scale back if necessary. Doing so could also help the team identify and solve a problem, and this "early win" could help motivate the team for the future (O'Hara, "HBR Blog," Harvard Business Review, 9/11).
The Advisory Board's take
Steven Berkow, HR Advancement Center
In setting up teams in healthcare for success, one must pay particular attention to establishing shared goals and incentives these days. As we strive to integrate care, organizations are increasingly pulling together teams with members from different care settings and disciplines.
Yet team members all to often are evaluated against their prior goals. To put it another way, we are doing better in health care in getting the right providers in the boat, but we also need to be sure they're rowing in unison toward a common destination. This challenge now extends from frontline care teams to executive task forces.
How to be a better manager
Most staff aren't naturally great leaders, but studies show that leadership and management can be taught. Use our Leadership Competency Diagnostic to help your managers further develop their strengths and focus on opportunities for improvement.
Meanwhile, it's never too early to start grooming a great manager. See our Succession Management Implementation Guide to ensure you deliberately chose your future leaders—don’t let circumstances choose them for you.
And see more stories from our archives on the power of good management, and strategies to be a better leader.