Taking over your first team can be quite a challenge: You have more responsibility, can encounter new uncertainties, question if you can handle the workload, and might feel like you need to know everything from day one. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Katrin Grunwald, a fempreneur herself and coach for first-time leaders, shares her top 10 recommendations for a successful start for your first leadership role.
It is important to first look at yourself: what leadership role models did you embody in the past, which behaviors did they show? What behaviors do you want your leadership style to be known for? Prepare a kind of “leadership manifest” that contains how you want to be seen and act as a leader.
Before day one, check with your boss on how you will be introduced to the team. Ideally, he or she will be there to send you off to a well-framed start and to give you the credibility needed for a solid working relationship with your future team. This can be done virtually, too!
Plan a short get-together with your team on your very first day. Here you can share more about yourself. Let them know what is important to you as a leader and how you want to work together as a team, and most importantly, be your authentic self.
Even though it might take a lot of your time in the beginning, it is time well invested to get to know your team members on a professional and personal level. Invest in one-hour conversations to find out more about what tasks they do and the responsibilities they hold, as well as what drives them and how they feel within the organization.
In addition to leading the team, you might still have a lot of operational topics on your plate. Therefore, make sure to balance both team leadership and operational tasks. Creating routines such as regular stand-ups, team meetings, and one-on-ones will help you dedicate time slots in your calendar to exchange with your team.
Who are the other peers leading teams on your level? Get to know them and think about how you could support each other in being successful, share learnings and observations, and check-in with them on a regular basis.
What are the leadership values of your company? What are the expectations of leaders’ behaviors? Inform yourself and speak to your manager and/or the HR team in order to find your place in the organization and how it resonates with you.
After sharing with the team what is important to you and meeting the team members individually, it is time to bring the entire team together for a half-day or one-day workshop. The goal is to understand the team’s past with its successes, challenges, things they are proud of, and much more, and to look into the future together. What are the main challenges you want to tackle as a team? What does your team expect from you in terms of support?
With leading your first team, you might be moving from being an expert in one topic to having more general expertise. This often means letting go of past behaviors, such as diving into a topic deeply, that have helped you or even made you successful in the past. Aim to let go of these old customs and check with yourself: what do I need to fully trust my team so I can take a step back?
Even though it might often feel like you have to find solutions to your problems all alone, that’s actually not the case! Are there other first-time leaders you can exchange thoughts and experiences with? Or possibly a mentoring program where you can get paired with a more experienced leader? Or you might even work with a coach during the transition phase. In either case, you are facing a new challenge so it’s totally normal to need support when doing something for the first time!
To get your team off to a successful start, go through these recommendations. Take time right before and during the first months of your first leadership position to practice these habits to help ensure a great outcome in your new leadership position!
If you’re curious to find out more about different leadership topics and how your leadership style impacts those around you, how to prepare when you manage your own startup for the first time, and how you can successfully lead a team of former colleagues, stay tuned for more!
Katrin Grunwald is the founder of The Globe Team, an organizational development consultancy supporting teams in working better together. As a coach for first-time leaders, she runs the Leadership Foundation Program, a live online coaching program, to support first-time leaders in the crucial transition from team member to team leader. More information on www.the-globe-team.com. She is also the host of the German Accelerator podcast “Startup Stereo”, a podcast with and for founders, innovators, and change-makers.