Team management isn’t a piece of cake. In fact, bringing one to the workplace when introducing yourself to a new team as a manager won’t have a major impact on whether your team ultimately delivers results. While a cake may not be a bad idea to start on a friendly note, it does not suffice.
What you do in the first few weeks and months in a leadership position, will eventually have an impact on the team’s ability to achieve goals. At some point, you’ll start to wonder what steps should have been taken to steer your team for success from the very first day of your shared journey.
Four Contexts for Introducing Yourself as a Manager
Andrew Soswa, holding a Ph.D. in Business Administration Field from Abraham Lincoln University, believes that if you are looking for the big bang impression at the first meeting, you might be surprised. It is both simple (if repeated many times) and difficult to achieve for an inexperienced person. An effective first-day presentation has to be polished over a long time and each time with a new team, states the expert.
Your introduction will depend on the type of the team as well as the type of the industry. It will also depend on the political hierarchy of the organization. The point is to apply Situational Leadership principles and polish them to perfection. – Andrew Soswa
Even though you can’t gain trust at the introduction meeting, the first impression you give is important. Drawing from his experience as a Doctorate Researcher at Toulouse Business School, Taoufik Samaka highlights four contexts when the introduction will likely happen and gives some advice as to what should be done in each:
I. A new project and the assigned team are just forming, and you have the advantage of being one of the first to join and create the legacy.
Usually, the tactic is then very classical – team-building with more time spent on getting to know each other, create common memories, engage in funny moments, and play together, but you could use the opportunity to get the team brainstorm on ground rules and team values.
II. An existing project that is in good shape with the team performing well.
From the very first meeting, you need to give confidence to the team and recall that you are proud of what has been achieved and that you are happy to be the part of the journey, looking forward to good collaboration. Of course, there is always a room for improvement and the team should be open-minded.
III. Joining a troubled project in a very challenging momentum (e.g. missing milestones, bad KPIs, tense work atmosphere).
The project manager should remind the team of the context in which he is joining and the mission that he was entrusted. In this case, the speech should be realistic, objective, honest, and direct. It’s best to share openly the present project situation, and that you’re on the same boat.
Because the situation might be very critical, you can get the project back on track only by working together hard. In the next days, deep-dive and try to figure out the roots of this failure, identify the team strengths to capitalize on & weaknesses to work on, do lessons learned, exercise and work on setting the next targets. Develop a realistic plan to get the project back on track together with a team. – Taoufik Samaka
Samaka admits that project managers starting in difficult situations should share background and experience in managing troubled projects. This knowledge should be based on use cases and lessons learned to give confidence to the team. From the first day, the team has to believe that the target is achievable. An optimistic and positive attitude, in addition to staying humble, strict, very focused, and rigorous are essential to jump to the new project plan realization.
IV. Joining a project at a late stage.
Joining a project at the end of the implementation phase or during its closure, you apply the approach from the second case.
In general, says Samaka, when introducing yourself to a new team, you could gain the trust by
- Showing a positive attitude regardless of the circumstances and avoiding panicking in difficult moments.
- Showing respect, your human qualities, caring and daring to the team as well as staying humble.
- Proving (by practice) that you can be trusted and that you know what you do.
- Being a good leader that trusts people, empowers them as well as being fair, showing direction, being consistent, and staying available and accessible when needed.
- Celebrating the team success and daring to acknowledge and learn from failures.
- Being accountable and giving examples.
- Working on developing your and the team’s skills.
- Promoting an open communication atmosphere and staying open to new ideas coming from the team.
- Being generous.
If somebody introduces you as the newly assigned PM to the team, in your first introduction you will be requested to briefly talk about yourself and background. When it happens, Samaka advises to segment the audience:
This will be the case moving forward in your communication strategy. In case of large organizations, there will be your first circle of direct reports (management team) and the extended management team (including the management team and team members responsible for critical deliverables). The third circle covers the overall project team. You’ll need to adapt your communication based on your audience. – Taoufik Samaka
Read more: How to Win Teams to Your Way of Thinking
Five Expert Tips to Introduce Yourself as a Manager
But what are the best workable and universal ways to introduce yourself to a new team in any context? I’ve tried to figure it out, speaking to a group of researchers and domain experts. Here are some other tips that surfaced.
1. Do Your Homework Before the Introduction
Douglas Rabjohns, PMO Director
Learn as much as you can about the team. You need to know who you are joining and how you can support them. It’s all about the team and how you can help them be successful. I like to provide a brief professional profile noting my career path and areas of knowledge. Not a list of accomplishments. Set expectations based on your goals and position requirements and then schedule one-on-ones to add a personal touch to the introduction.
2. Don’t Focus on Your Experience
Melanie Call, Business System Analyst
Don’t talk about how much experience you have as a PM right away. At any new place, watch, learn, and listen for a bit. Observe how much they currently know and identify ways to help. Your team’s power is silent at times, so it’s better to discover what really works for them. Then express how you are going to work together with all the incoming work with enthusiasm, positivity, and relay the plan going forward.
3. Be True to Yourself and the Team
Norman Musengimana, Founder at BizSkills Academy
There is no better way than to be you and to let the team around you be them.
If you are looking for a short term win, you might want to impress the team with a few polished techniques. While on the other side, if you’re going to manage the team into a winning team in the long run, you might want to be true to yourself and the team.
What does being true look like? For example, share a bit of other work you have done that is relevant to the role and give the team equal opportunity to share about themselves and their experiences. Give them enough time to share about how things work in the organization from an open and candid perspective, as someone who genuinely wants to learn.
Provide opportunities to share what works and what doesn’t work in the project, and the kind of solutions they have tried or those solutions they wish they should have tried but didn’t and why that was the case. Finally, ask them about their expectations for the new journey and how they see themselves shape success based on their own responsibility. Show that you really want to learn and use this information to work with them in a direction they envision and want to contribute to.
4. Discover Everyone’s Strengths
Lisa-Ann Barnes, Consultant
Focus on your team, always. Ask each team member to talk about their experience with this or similar projects, instead of talking about your own experience. Ask them what their questions are and explain why you’re here. Have a one-on-one conversation with each team member as soon as possible. Get to understand their strengths and how they see themselves contributing to the project. Ask them what they need from you as a project manager. For remote teams, do the same things. Also, encourage people to share pictures of themselves so there is a face to the voice and email. Trust is built over time and through mutual respect. As project managers, you have to demonstrate why you should be trusted by first trusting and respecting the team members.
5. Ask About the Roadblocks
Carlos Cody, Operations Manager
Find out some areas that are impeding their work, things they have not been able to overcome, and where they want to take their career. Then go to work helping them remove barriers through what you learn. This is what builds trust. If they feel it’s all about you, you will only have positional trust and not trust based on relationships.
Bonus: Be Prepared to Listen & Answer Many Questions
Bill Hoberecht, Senior Director
Joining a team as a leader can be stressful for everyone. Team members always have questions they would like answered – questions signaling fear or uncertainty: ‘What is your mandate?’ ‘Are you here to make changes that impact me?’ ‘Will you respect what we have been doing and have accomplished?’ ‘Are you fair?’ ‘Can we trust you?’
They may also have things that they want you to know (‘Here’s some great work we have done.’ ‘We have a plan in place that we want to follow.’ ‘We need you to give us support in resolving this important problem – here’s what we need you to do.’)
Introducing yourself as a new manager is more than a one-time event. It is a journey that includes team meetings and 1:1 meetings. These exchanges can benefit by transparently sharing information with the team (about you, your mandate/interest in the team, excitement in joining the team, your respect for the team, listening to the team, getting to know each team member. All are important, but listening is paramount.
One attitude to avoid: don’t arrive with ‘the answer.’ You’ll best assimilate into the team by first learning and understanding. (Of course, in a crisis situation, act with appropriate haste.)
To wrap up, the way you introduce yourself to a new team as a project manager is extremely important and will work for you and your goals only if you are prepared. What do you do in such situations?
Illustration: Copyright © Oksana Drachkovska