New to Management
Our client has made a successful integration into a new management role with an inherited team. Lisa Walsh, Principal Consultant, had the privilege to coach this mid-career female leader as she was starting a new position as a manager– it is a real success story with many tips that others can learn from in their next such role!
Jane (not her real name), is a gifted, high-level manager of a federal government institution in Washington, DC. Jane has worked for this institution for many years, is incredibly dedicated to the mission of her agency, and was promoted regularly for her great work. In 2019, Jane was offered a position that required her to lead a team of people. This was the first time Jane accepted a team leader role in quite some time. An earlier experience in management was not successful (at least in her mind). After that experience, Jane focused on executing her role-specific responsibilities as an individual contributor and was consistently recognized for her great contribution.
Jane was at a point in her career where she felt ready for a challenge in a role with a greater scope. Jane was hesitant to take a management role because of her past experience, and because she knew her strengths lay in execution more than in leadership. Being a self-aware person and determined not to repeat mistakes, she reached out for coaching to ensure the most successful re-entry into management.
Jane’s willingness and eagerness to be coached spoke highly of her level of self-awareness; she increased her level of self-awareness by taking the Core Values Index (CVI). This personality assessment gave us insights into how Sarah is wired, the roles in which she was historically comfortable and successful, and the areas into which she would need to grow to succeed as a leader. Jane was open to coaching to help her succeed. Jane and I spent time creating a personal strategic plan for her, so that she knew the steps she needed to take, and when, to get integrated quickly into her new role. Jane’s greatest challenges were two-fold, specifically Jane needed practice actively listening for her team. As an execution-oriented manager, listening deeply was new and uncomfortable for her. Jane’s second challenge was to craft a message that would motivate and inspire them. Jane’s team had extremely diverse backgrounds, varying levels of experience and engagement, and disparate levels of willingness to accept a new boss.
We created role-play exercises that allowed her to practice actively listening, and based upon what she heard, to craft her motivational message to each team member and to the team as a whole. Jane implemented weekly team meetings where none had ever existed; created personal performance plans with each team member; and kept her door open so that her team knew she was accessible and willing to help them navigate new territory.
When I first started working with Jane, I suspected that one of her team members was not long for the team. A new hire, and inexperienced with the content of the department’s work, this person’s first response was promoting conflict, followed by periods of defensiveness, silence and threats to lodge various complaints against Jane. Jane was not optimistic about bringing this team member around.
I recently got a call from Jane. She had gone through her team’s first round of performance reviews, and guess whose review was a great success? You guessed it – the very person Jane though would be the first to leave or be asked to leave the team!! I asked Jane “Wow, what do you think turned this person around? Specifically, what turned your relationship with this person around?”
Jane’s response was as follows: 1) I had a plan going in regarding tools to use to listen, then engage and inspire my team as a whole and individually; 2) I was consistent in putting those tools in place and adhering to the meetings/conversations etc. that supported by teambuilding goals; 3) I was consistent in meeting with each member of my team and over time built a new level of communication where none had existed (aided largely by active listening); 4) when conflict arose, I leaned into it – I found the words to guide us through the conflict (both individually and as a group) so that the experience was productive, and brought us closer together; and 5) I continued to work on my own self-awareness – knowing I’d prefer to execute tasks on my own, I focused on being aware of when I was entering that space and purposefully pulled myself back, and allowed the process to unfold as it should – with my team executing, learning and achieving.
Bottom line, the work I did before walking into my office on that first day guided my actions for the past six months – and it worked! I believe today we still have a lot of work to do, but my team is founded on trust and I intend to use all the tools I have learned through coaching to continue to build a trust-based team. Those are the teams that get results.”
A success all around! I hope this story inspires you as much as it inspires us!