5 STEPS you need to take to

Succeed at your job & Build a stellar team

You are a new manager. You feel the excitement to do big things but also the anxiety as you have no prior experience. Managing teams is extremely challenging. You are dealing with people of different personalities, there are project deliveries at stake, you are expected to manage conflicts and solve problems as they arise. That’s a lot to handle. Especially if there is no Rule Book for you. This blog post outlines the 5 important steps you need to take to overcome chaos and become an effective leader. 

I remember my first time as a new manager. I had no idea how this role differed from my previous role and what I should be doing differently. Truth is, there is very little guidance or training offered to new managers. You are expected to learn “on the job”. If you are feeling the same level of overwhelm, do not despair. I have you covered. Read on, take notes and master these 5 steps that will help you to become an awesome leader and build an amazing team. 

Step 1: Understand Your Team

One of the top qualities that people want in their manager is empathy and relatability. When there is a lot on your plate, you may think that spending time to know your team can wait. But don’t let it slip. Get to know the people that make your team! Knowing your people, their strengths, and motivators is a huge advantage, one that will help you many times over.

 

I suggest you set aside intentional time (1:1s) to meet regularly with the members of your team and get answers to these questions –
  1. What is their past experience?
  2. What technical skills do they have?
  3. What are their strengths and growth areas? Are they aware of these?
  4. What are their interests and aspirations?
  5. Do they have any goals?
  6. How do they like to be recognized?
  7. What are their interests outside of work?
  8. In what areas do they need your help?
  9. Do they need any adjustments to better balance work and life?
  10. What are the Roles and Responsibilities of the team members?

Use ideas and tips from my blog on Strategies for Effective Communications to build a culture of collaboration and cohesion.

Step 2: Understand Your Customer & Your  Business

An important aspect of your job is to deliver value to the customer. To be able to do so, you need to understand who your customer is. Create a working session with your stakeholders and senior members of the team and answer these questions to better understand your business –
  1. What are the different kinds of customers who use your products?
  2. How do they use the products built by your team?
  3. What mechanisms does your team have to measure success?
  4. What mechanisms does your team have to collect customer feedback?

 

As a manager, you will need to prioritize work. There isn’t infinite time to do everything that will be asked for. Get an early start and ask your leadership about goals for your team, your org, and your company. Get super clear on “What is the most important thing you should focus on right now?”

 

Check out my blog to learn more about the Prioritization Frameworks that I use frequently.

Step 3: Create Your Health Dashboard

You are responsible for feature delivery, maintaining operations, growing your people, and making process improvements. Create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of how you will review and monitor each of these areas. I call it the Health Dashboard.

 

Imagine someone asks you “how is everything in your world right now”? And now imagine there is a dashboard that you can quickly look at and see that all is green and say “all good”, wouldn’t that be wonderful? That’s the idea – build SOPs and mechanisms that let you get status on important things in a reliable, repeatable manner.

 

Let me share some ideas on how you can build this –

 

People

  1. Build a mechanism to collect feedback and pain points from your team. This can be a survey or 1:1s.
  2. Does every team member have goals? How are you tracking their progress towards goals?

 

Operations

  1. Identify the major KPI for your business. Spend the time to create dashboards to check availability, latency, operations, and business metrics.
  2. Do you own hardware? Are you responsible for infrastructure expenses? If yes, figure out how to get this information.
  3. How is your ticket count? Is the team addressing the most important bugs? Determine a mechanism to track tickets and their impact on your team.

 

Feature Delivery

  1. Find a way to track progress on deliverables by your team members, without needing to ask them every day for an update. If your time follows agile, scrum, or kanban methodologies, ask your team to keep storyboards current.
  2. What are the road blockers for your team? How are you helping them address these?
  3. How are you tracking dependencies?
  4. How are you tracking milestones?

Step 4: Outline Your Strengths & Weaknesses

It is very important for you to dive deep and outline your strengths and weaknesses. What motivates you? Know that you will shine in areas that are aligned with your strengths. Focus on your strengths and manage your weaknesses. So, the big question is – Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses? There are many assessments that can help you gain awareness, such as Gallup Strength Finder, Myers Briggs, Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI), etc. Take the time to do a self-assessment. You will be thankful for the clarity it provides you.
 

Don’t be afraid to discuss your strengths and gaps with your team and your supervisor. Especially when you are new. There is pressure on you to perform the best. Don’t fall into the trap that you don’t need to know everything. In fact, it is a very bad thing when you are the strongest person on your team. You just need to channel your strengths. Build a team culture that is strengths-based.

 

In my experience, I found that when I discussed my strengths and weaknesses, it resonated with my colleagues. That was reinforcing for me and the openness was welcomed by all.

Step 5: Establish Trust

Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we’.
– Phil Jackson, Basketball Player, Coach

As a new manager, your team doesn’t fully know you. It is important that you say what you do and do what you say. Listen attentively. Treat everyone with empathy and respect. This is the way to build trust. Encourage this behavior in your team. You will see, this goes a long way.

 

Safety and Trust go hand in hand. You build trust by being an accountable and dependable partner. Trust provides a feeling of safety and safety enables trust in the team. Encourage transparency in your team. You are the role model. When you drop all pretenses, display your vulnerabilities, show candor to discuss wins and losses, you will undoubtedly build trust.

Bonus Tip: One thing to NOT do

You may be new to this role and you may still be ramping up. It’s ok to be learning and adjusting as you know better. But bear in mind, one thing that you should absolutely never do is micro-manage. Nobody likes to be micro-managed. Remember how you felt the last time someone micro-managed you. It’s a good thing to ask questions and validate but give space to your people and let them come to you. It’s a soft balance, one you will learn over time.

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