When you get that promotion or that new assignment it comes with people, unless you are doing something brand new, starting from zero! Those people come with ways of working, ways of communicating, ways of thinking that they have developed over months and probably years. There is an existing trust with each other and with the organization. There is an existing level of commitment and accountability. And, there is an existing attention to detail and results. To some extent you are an outsider tasked with managing, leading and coaching these people.
You as the outsider
The perspective of being an outsider may not be something you've considered and it may be useful for you as you move forward in your new role! How might being seen as an outsider guide the way you handle your team in the early days?
For arguments sake, let's accept you as the de facto outsider, you need to figure out what’s going on inside! This is not a quick thing to check off a list. It will take you some time to figure out what is going on inside your team. How much time you have depends on what you need to know to get things done.
Things could definitely be done differently
So, you get to work. You start to meet your team one-to-one and ask a lot of questions. You start to understand what they really do. You start to understand how they work and how they think about how they are organized to get the work done. Because your experience is likely different from theirs, there will come a time when you think that the way your team is working, in some facet or another, is not the way you want it to work!
As you continue to learn about your team other things may come up for you. Maybe the way the team organizes the work could be different? Or, you may wonder why a person with a certain role is doing a task you see as not part of that role. You may feel that a team member is miscast and their strengths are better suited for another role. It's also possible that all these things and many others, come up for you in rapid succession. What do you do?
Take time to learn
Well, you take your time, within the context of the organization (some will push you faster and some will allow you more time - you need to figure out your context) and don’t jump to change!
Unless you’ve been brought in to make specific changes and have experience at that, then you have to realize this team has been functioning and getting the job done (to varying degrees for sure) before you arrived. Why do you need to do anything other than manage, lead, coach, continue to get results and learn right now? That's a lot to get right!
Now the exception may be that you get promoted to lead a group that isn’t performing. Hopefully that isn’t where you end up as a first-time manager. Talk me to if you do! That’s another discussion entirely!
Otherwise, this is the time for you to be a manager, and process technician. Understand your team processes and where there are gaps that affect results. Understand your team’s role and if it is delivering the right results in the right way as others expect - find the gaps. Understand how your team works with each other and consider bumps and rough spots as coaching opportunities which will help build trust between you and your team. All of these things will help you determine how things are really going and what might need to done differently.You’ll be able to see if you’re getting the right results. And, finding your right pace (which will help you be consistent and thoughtful) while helping your team as you learn, will start to decrease the presence of the de facto outsider and help you become part of your own team!