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New Team Managers - Getting the right Support.

Moving into a new role is challenging at the best of times but moving into a new team manager role can be the most challenging of all moves. From being that team member responsible for your own performance and well-being to then becoming responsible for a team of individuals’ performance and well-being is full of emotion ranging from exhilaration and excitement through to being nervous about meeting the new or existing team. In a previous blog I talked about the need to ensure that the first meeting with your new team is one where tasks and business plans are put to one side and an open and honest discussion is had between all the team members to ensure that the expectations of the new manager and of the team are discussed and agreed. But before this happens then I would expect that a support process for the new team manager is put in place so that the new team manager’s progress through their first 3-6 months is a motivational, productive and a positive learning experience.

If you are lucky enough to work in a large multinational organisation it may well be that you have already been through a ‘fast track’ development process and may well have had experience of leading teams and perhaps even been through a management development programme. Unfortunately, the large majority of new team managers, leaders and supervisors do not have this luxury, and many are simply thrown into the new role with very little support until such time as they are actually in position. In many instances, new managers will have to be pro-active and push for developmental support and I would encourage all new team managers to do this. Here are some tips that can assist you to productively manage the first 6-9 months of your new team manager role.

· Contract with your line manager and ensure you have 100% clarity on your role and its responsibilities. Your line manager should be experienced and capable enough to initiate this contracting conversation where you both agree how best you are going to work together, preferably in partnership. If they are not forthcoming, then initiate the conversation. It is important that you both openly discuss what each other’s expectations and needs are and to come to a solid understanding and agreement. Within this, you should discuss specifically what the role entails, what the specific objectives and measures are and how best the line manager is going to support your performance and development in the role.

· Get a Mentor or at the very least a ‘Buddy’. A mentor is usually a senior person who in this instance has team management experience and who can provide support and guidance. It helps if they have influence, have a history of success but above all they have the ability to coach effectively. A mentor who simply tells you what to do based on their own experience is not what is needed as some of their experience and success will have been gained in a ‘past life’ and may well not be relevant or indeed effective in today’s business environment. Some who can advise but also coach you to enable you to decide whether this experience is right for you in today’s world is preferable. A ‘buddy’ is usually someone at the same managerial level and who can ‘show you the ropes’ from a ‘local’ perspective. If you secure both a mentor and a ‘buddy’ then all the better!

· Manage your Stakeholders. You have already started this process if you have sought out a mentor and a ‘buddy’ as well as contracting with your line manager but also think about who else are in key functions that you will need to engage with and gain support from? Think of the functions that support your team and vice versa. When I was a young sales manager, I engaged with the heads of HR, Marketing, Medical, IT, and Training. All these functions provided a support service for the team and so it was important that built rapport with the key people within these functions in order that we, as a team, gained support from them but also got clarity where we could support their own particular function aims and goals. Another example where the skill of contracting is essential.

· Get to grips with your various ‘Plans’. To be a truly effective and high-performance manager who leads a high-performance team you really need to be on top of a number of key plans. These are:

(a) The Business Plan. This is key and this will drive your overall success as a manager and as a team. You need to have full understanding of this and how best the plan will be executed. Your team will also need that 100% clarity around the key aspects of the plan.

(b) The Team Contract or Charter. Once you have had your first meeting with the team to discuss needs and expectations of you as a new manager you should really put in time to go through a thorough team development process whereby the needs and expectations are reinforced but also total clarity gained on the team’s purpose, aims and goals, development needs, rewards and review processes and stakeholder engagement plans. This can all be condensed into a team contract which can be framework for the team’s overall journey to high performance.

(c) The Team Development Plan and Individual Development Plans. Once the business plan is fully understood and the capabilities that are needed to deliver the plan are identified, then both a team development plan and individual team member’ development plans can be built. The team development plan will contain actions around those capabilities that need developed across all team members whilst the individual plans will centre on the development of skills and knowledge that pertain to the individual team member alone. Getting both these plans right and making sure they are executed and monitored routinely will pave the way for both team and individual success.

Get these four steps completed at the very start of your new managerial career and you will set yourself up for a really good start!

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