How to Begin a New Leadership Assignment

“I’ve just been asked to lead a newly-formed division of our company,” a manager said to me, “and I’m unsure about what leadership style is best.”

“Do you know the performance history of the people that will be on your team?” I asked.

“Not really.  Most will be new people.”

“I suggest that you start by explaining your expectations—performance objectives, metrics, policy compliance—and identify two or three cultural themes (cooperation, teamwork, customer focus, for example) that you value.  Encourage team members to offer feedback.  Should a suggestion represent an improvement, accept it immediately.  If you disagree with a suggestion, tell why.”

When performance of a team is unknown, I think a leader who begins with very clear expectations and guidelines is more likely to get the team’s motor running.

As the weeks go by, the leader will quickly learn which members are the better performers.  Likewise, marginal producers will reveal themselves.  The leader should provide much support and more freedom to top performers.

For marginal producers, the leader can reduce freedom by focusing on performance tracking, process compliance and specific coaching.

On any team, effective leaders treat members differently because members behave differently.


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