10 tips for managing a new team

For the purpose of this post, let’s assume that the whole team is being formed for the first time. So your employer is taking on a new project, or has won a significant contract, or is setting up a new venture. If you’ve been selected to lead this team, chances are you’ve been involved in the project development or pitch or some element that has led to this team being needed.

Hopefully, you’re able to have say in who gets to be in this newly formed team; you may have had some ideas as you worked towards this point. In reality though, it often comes down to logistics and budgets. The star relationship builder you really want to hang on to is now tasked with getting back to their ‘day job’ on the company’s biggest client; or the capable project manager is being allocated to another pitch; or maybe the data wizard comes at a price that will make you a team of just two, so that’s not an option yet. You probably won’t get first pick then.

Get some help: your line manager, department heads, finance and HR all spring to mind. But before you seek them out, take time to think through exactly what the team’s outputs need to be. What results are expected by when? Clarify this in your own mind first and you’ll be better placed to collaborate with the aforementioned colleagues, scope the needs and identify the skills and capabilities this team will need. Sorry if that’s a bit of a detour, but hey, it’s organisational fact of life stuff.

How can you get this team up and running well, and fast? 

There’s heaps of theory out there on teams and how they form and perform. Bruce W. Tuckman’s* four-stage model of ‘Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing’ dates back to the mid-1960’s (Tuckman added a fifth stage, ‘Adjourning’, in collaboration with Mary Ann Jensen in the mid 1970’s), and is still relevant today. Other frameworks have followed. What they have in common is the view that teams develop and mature over time, and the leader’s role in that process is critical.

To help you get going here are 10 essential tips for the vital early stages:

  1. Take an active role initially. Yes, you can back off over time as the team matures, but the early days are no time to be a hands-off manager. Your team will be looking to you for direction and guidance.
  2. Clarify the team’s purpose: why it exists and the results everyone needs to deliver. This may sound corny, but if you can it’s worth having the team’s purpose and goals clearly displayed where all can see them.
  3. Identify the team’s values. What are the deal-breakers here? Is it vital to have fun? Is innovation essential? Must there be mutual respect for one another’s skills? Eliciting your team’s values can be a powerful exercise for all concerned.
  4. Based on your team’s values, you can then collaborate to produce the team’s ground rules. Don’t be afraid to lay some down yourself at this early stage; but do be open to amending them over time. What does the team believe should happen if ground rules are broken?
  5. Ensure each person knows the expectations of their role. A job title is one thing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s role in one team is going to be identical in another. Once roles have been agreed, share them.
  6. Monitor what’s going on with each member of the team. Have regular 1:1s, coach and support them.
  7. Encourage people to identify their strengths and acknowledge the strengths of their fellow team members.
  8. Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and pitch in to help when needed.
  9. Hold yourself and your fellow team members accountable.
  10. Brace yourself for ‘teenage rebellion’ as the team experiences growing pains. You’ll need to manage any conflict, ‘referee’ at times and enforce those ground rules.

*One for Batman fans – the W. stands for Wayne – yep, that’s Bruce Wayne Tuckman.

You may find these blog posts useful: How clear is your team on its Why, What, Who and How? and  10 ways to make your team more productive

Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available now at bookstores and on Amazon.

Image: Team work symbol @portarefortuna/Deposit Photos

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