Build a clear vision
One of the most difficult challenges that a newly appointed leader can face is building the right team. What marks out a leader from a manager is their ability to bring forward a clear vision. But it is not enough to formulate this vision; you need to communicate this vision to your team in a clear and confident manner.
A team with a strong vision and sense of purpose is far more likely to exceed expectations. Your direct reports will look to you, particularly in the vital early stages, and their performance will reflect how they react to you.
Create an action play for your direct reports
In the pivotal first 100 days, the leader needs to pay close attention to their direct report team and ensure that a clear action plan is in place to accelerate their performance. A team that is firing on all cylinders is doing so because it has been enabled by effective leadership.
It often helps to use the analogy of the body when thinking about your team. Consider the strength of the head (analytics and business intelligence), the hands (team skills and competencies) and the heart (passion, motivation and spirit). This will allow you to perceive any deficiencies, and it is vital to move quickly to address these.
Place people in the right roles
Consider also how investment in team building, skills training and recruitment can boost team performance.
It is also worth stepping back and observing if there are individuals within your team of direct reports who are not aligned to your vision. It may well be that now is the time to harness your skills as a motivator, and communicate your vision directly to any under performers.
If this does not work, it is time to consider whether you need to move certain individuals on. There is a strong possibility that one of your direct reports applied for your role unsuccessfully, and this may be a cause of rancour and discord. You may need to make an extra effort to build a relationship with this individual.
It is vital to give the team you inherit a chance, but moving too slowly on putting the right people in the right roles can have a very negative effect on your own performance and that of your company as a whole.
Managing team expectations
First100 recently worked with a newly appointed sales director at a well regarded IT firm. A team of sales managers can be particularly difficult to align as a team, given that they are often driven by individual targets and find it hard to think outside of their silos.
One of the most successful sales managers in the team in terms of hard sales was proving disruptive to the overall team spirit in the aftermath of the director's appointment.
We counselled the director to speak with this individual in an informal 1-1. We suggested he thank the individual for their sales success and to assess what their ambitions were for progress.
If the person was focused on staying in sales and generating as much money as possible, we suggested the director tie his remuneration to the performance of the team, giving him extra motivation to be a team player.
If the individual had ambitions to become a sales director, we counselled assigning this individual some mentoring responsibilities, and pitching this as an opportunity for him to build up his management skills.
Both approaches were designed to influence the behaviour of the sales manager in a positive way without provoking hostility. By being considered in managing relationships, the sales director was able to get the individual direct reports to understand their responsibility to the overall team.
Energise your team
Regardless of the industry or function, senior leaders tend to encounter similar challenges when it comes to building high performing teams in the early stages of their role.
Assessing, building and energizing your team are a vital part of any first 100 days plan.