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New Managers and Staff Meetings

Updated on April 21, 2009

New Manager: Meet your Staff

Most experienced managers agree that the first challenge they face is becoming accepted by the people who report to them, their staff. It's important to get off on the right foot from the start, so that first meeting with your staff is all-important. You need a strategy, or at least an approach you already have in mind before you hold your meeting.

There are also other groups of people you need to meet with as you take up your new management position. In this Lens, we'll look at them too.

Meet Your Staff As Soon As Possible

Get off to a fast start!

As soon as the announcement of your appointment has been made, folks will start talking about you! Those who know you will have an opinion as to whether your appointment was deserved or not. Those who don't know you will wonder what kind of manager you are and how your appointment will affect them. Any competitors for your job will be going through a whole sequence of feelings, and will have strong feelings about your being chosen for the job. Rumors will start — that's just human nature at work.

You want your voice to be heard above all the noise, and the best way to do that is address people directly and quickly. There are those who believe the first meeting should take place within an hour of your appointment. I know from corporate experience that this is often not practical or possible, but it's certainly desirable to have it on the first day or the second at the latest.

What Will You Talk About?

Keep it short!

The purpose of this first meeting is simply to say hello, to introduce yourself and let people see you in person. Keep it short - preferably ten to fifteen minutes. Here are the messages you want to convey:

  • You are pleased to be there, and looking forward to working with them

  • You know they have strengths and you want to build on them as a team

  • You want to know about things they feel could be improved upon, and then work together to implement their ideas

  • You believe in the power of people working together, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

  • You want to build an even greater team than they now are.

  • There are many things about the work of the department that you don't know yet. You will be relying on them, their experience and their expertise, to help you learn

Important! As you speak, subtly become one with them by using the word we much more often than I, me and you . Talk about our department, our team, our objectives, our products. The effect of this may be subliminal, but it's definitely real.

Tell them you intend to get to know them all over the coming weeks, and that if they see you in the corridor or near their desks they shouldn't hesitate to introduce themselves to you.

Thank them for coming to the meeting, and let them get back to their jobs.

Next, Meet with Your Boss

Make sure your plan is understood and agreed

Depending on the situation in the company as a whole, the development stage of your team, past experience and other variables, your boss may be expecting you to make substantial changes or not. In fact, you probably expect to make changes too.

You must set expectations with your boss as well as those who report to you. It's rarely a good idea to rush in with wholesale changes immediately; much more effective to spend some time in observation mode before moving. When you've spent enough time observing, you'll formulate your plans and timeline for improvement. Plan on this phase taking at least a couple of months, and be sure you convey this to your boss. The last thing you want is an impatient boss breathing down your neck asking what you've done or plan to do before you are ready to do it.

A useful tool in gathering information is some form of self-assessment of the whole department or team, its members, its functions and its success (or lack of it). If you plan to use such a tool (and I recommend you do), carefully plan how you will do so, and make sure your boss is on the same page before moving.

Finally, your boss may well have his or her own ideas of how you should proceed. Make sure you get this information early, and if you have concerns bring them up for discussion and resolution. You are, after all, a member of your boss's team and you need to support the leader.

Meet With the Unsuccessful Candidates for Your Job

No, I'm not kidding!

OK, this one is hard, no doubt about it. It's especially difficult if you've been promoted from within and you know the other candidates personally. But having this open, candid meeting with them right from day one can make the difference between a toxic situation and a new, positive relationship that's in the interests of everyone.

So have the meeting or meetings (individually if there is more than one person) on the first day. Here are the messages you want to convey:

  • You understand they must have feelings of disappointment or anger at not having been chosen for the job. You would feel the same in their position.

  • You know they have a great deal of experience and knowledge. If they didn't, they would not have even been considered for the job. You intend to use that experience as much as possible in the interests of the team.

  • You hope you can work together as professionals. Get their commitment to continuing to contribute to the work of the department.

Of course, that's just the meeting. There may be continuing hostility on their part, and you will need to find ways of dealing with this effectively. For your part, treat them with respect and live up to your promise to help them contribute their value.

Be Nice, Be Strong, Be Confident

In all your interactions as a manager, you must project an image of strength and confidence, particularly in these early days. But if you want to get people onside, it helps to be pleasant and personable.

The best managers have developed just the right balance of all three qualities, and it serves them well throughout their careers. At the start of your management career, you would do well to follow their example.

Good luck, new manager!

I'm Helping New Managers In Other Places

As a professional speaker and coach for many years, I've worked with many new and recently appointed managers. I've helped them develop the universal skills of management, while navigating the difficult waters of the early days. I have become passionate about helping as many new managers as possible, and have created a number of online places to do so.

Here are the links, new manager. Check them out for yourself.

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