“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” — Warren Buffett
Whether you’ve just started your first company or are brand new to management, you probably come to the position ill prepared. Most people taking on a management role for the first time have had little or no training to prepare them. According to the Corporate Executive Board, 60 percent of managers fail in the first 24 months. The Center for Creative Leadership puts the rate even lower, at 50 percent, which is still unacceptable.
Given these alarming rates of failure, how do you ensure your own success?
Be ready to run, not walk, that very first week.
Day 1 — Meet with whoever is your supervisor and get clarity of his or her expectations for the first 30 days. What will success look like? How will you be measured? Seek this person’s perspective about your team members, on issues such as behavioral issues or any conflicts you need to be aware of. Outside of your direct reports, who does your supervisor think will be important to your success?
Introduce yourself to each member of the team if you are new to these people, and schedule one-on-one meetings with each individual. If this is a team you have been working with as a peer, reset your relationship with each team member.
Day 2 — Prepare for your one-on-one meetings. This first meeting should be designed to learn more about your direct report from his/her perspective as well as to set up future meetings. What are the key initiatives each team member is working on? What will each one need from you?
Start developing your 30-day plan by using these questions to guide you:
- What critical things must you accomplish in your first month? (goals)
- What actions must be taken to accomplish overall goals, and who will be accountable for them? (actions)
- How will you measure the team and individual results? (performance indicators)
- Who on your team and outside your team will be critical in the success of this plan? And, how will you gain these individuals’ support? How will your plan impact individual team members? (leadership and influence)
Day 3 — Do you understand the four-stage model of team development? If not, this article by Brian Tracy will provide you with background for managing your first team meeting.
Have your one-on-one meetings with team members and continue to build your 30-day plan.
Day 4 — Prepare for your first team meeting. Answer the following questions:
- How will you gauge the energy in the room before you start?
- How will you ensure that everyone is heard?
- What norms will there be for future meetings?
- What purpose will your weekly meetings have?
- How will meetings be concluded to make sure everyone is clear on next week’s goals and measure against norms?
- What role should you be playing in this kick-off meeting vs ongoing meetings?
- What are the goals of the team?
Send out the agenda to your team before the end of the workday.
Have any one-on-one meetings that you scheduled on day one.
Day 5 — Have your first team meeting and use these steps to manage the meeting.
- Start on time. You are the one who set the meeting and created the agenda.
- Start by agreeing to norms. You have your list of norms, but first open things up to the group for their own ideas; you want them to buy in to the norms and own them. Keep the list short: Six or fewer norms is best.
- Stick to the agenda. Use the “parking lot” method when discussions get off topic. The “parking lot” will keep you on track with the agenda while making sure that other topics aren’t forgotten for the future.
- Share your first 30-day plan with your team and ask for their feedback and input. Clearly describe their roles within the plan.
- Wrap up the meeting by having each member rate how well the meeting went compared to the meeting norms and gain their commitment to specific actions they will take before next week’s meeting.
Following these steps will ensure the team knows that you are clear on the mission, their roles in the mission and how the team should be operating.