I am 24 and recently received a promotion to supervisor in my department. Sounds great right? Not so much. My team consists of 10 people, ranging in age from 25 to 40, with 1 to 15 years’ experience. Every time I give the team a task, the outcome is not what I asked for. The most senior people treat me like I am clueless and didn’t deserve the promotion, while others seem to ignore me. I am at the point of tossing in the towel. I am unsure of how to lead a team of people when they refuse to follow, it’s like they want me to fail? Asking my boss for help would feel like whining and a signal to them that they made a poor selection. Can you give me some direction on how to turn this around? — Lost Leader
Hi Lost Leader: Thank you for the question, and we can definitely help you turn this situation around. The good news is the key to your success starts with focusing on one person, and you have total control over their success. Who is this person? You of course. Let’s start by breaking down the challenges in order of priority… 1) Earning trust and mending fences. 2) Understanding what the team needs as individuals and as a group to grow. 3) Giving clear direction, verifying understanding, and checking in. 4) Celebrating success.
Earning trust and mending fences is the first step to leading a new team. Even if you had little interaction prior, the problems created by previous leadership are now yours to deal with. You need to understand that you may have stepped over people that feel they deserve your position, even if they are not prepared to take it. You are now faced with the difficult challenge of helping them understand why this happened. Yes, you must own this. Start by identifying those who applied for your role on the team, HR or your manager can help. Ask the hiring manager to give you three things that prevented these employees from being successful. During your conversation with your employee, 1) acknowledge the disappointment they must feel 2) ask if they are still interested in moving forward in the future and if they were told why they were not successful 3) share the three reasons and develop a growth plan with their input to improve these elements and 4) schedule a 30/60/90 day check-in with them to follow-up on their progress. By taking this approach, you have addressed the elephant in the room, acknowledge their disappointment by expressing empathy, and offered to help them overcome their roadblocks. If you stick to your commitments, you will build trust, earn respect, and create an advocate for your future success as a leader. A note of caution…this may not be the first time someone has taken this approach with this individual. Do not expect them to trust you immediately; in fact, expect just the opposite. Keep to your commitments and follow-through consistently it is only a matter of time until you see the relationship grow.
Understanding what the team needs as individuals and a group to become successful personally and professionally is our next focus. Take the time to find out what their aspirations are, where do they want to go in and outside of work? What do they see as strengths of the team and what needs improvement? You are now prepared to help the remaining team members focus on items to develop themselves further. You also should have a much clearer understanding of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the team. This should provide you with insight on creating group task that challenge the team, along with areas that will need more personal support from you. By taking this approach, you have developed a roadmap that outlines individual development needs, current perceptions of strengths/weakness, and a heightened awareness of potential challenges when delegating assignments to the group.
Based on the information you collected above, you can now give clear and concise directions to the team. When possible, give members assignments that challenge them in an area they want to grow. Make sure these tasks are attainable, and the risk is minimal to the overall outcome of the project, have a plan “b” and “c.” Ask the team members to mirror back what they heard from your instructions, actively listen for misalignment between expectations and what they heard. This feedback will help you improve your communication skills as well. Make sure you communicate project milestones, deadlines, and check-in dates to the team verbally and in writing. Ask the team if these are achievable goals and be prepared to receive their feedback openly. Take the time to digest the feedback and provide follow-up to the entire group. As you build trust with the group, challenge them to provide solutions at the same time they identify problems during these discussions. This process will create trust; it will educate them on how you make decisions and help align their thought process with yours over time. You will notice their suggestions will become more thought out, decreasing the unproductive ideas over time. You must make your commitments to follow-up and follow-through a priority. Do not allow outside forces to undermine this process. Failing to keep these commitments will damage your progress and reputation as a good leader, do not allow that to happen.
Last, but never least…Celebrate the wins and hard work. It’s nice to take the team out to celebrate a job well done. Who doesn’t love a surprise pizza party at the office or an awards ceremony to acknowledge someone’s hard work? But that isn’t always possible or feasible. With that said, nothing stops you from recognizing the team or a team member during a meeting. Taking the time to thank someone for their efforts personally will go a long way to build rapport. Be creative, make it personal, and always genuinely express gratitude. Acknowledging the efforts of your team is one of the best ways to ensure they repeat the behavior in the future.
Thank you again for the question Lost Leader. Now take a little time to digest what we have shared, reward yourself with a little self-care and rest. Then develop a plan with your next steps and move those ideas to action. We look forward to hearing about your successful journey in leadership.
Do you have a problem and want to see if we can help? We would love to hear from you and help Move your Ideas to Action. Email us at: Info@bscorbettconsulting.com.