Leadership | September 21, 2011
new leadership assignment? how to build trust among your new team
By ed bagley
With the news of Steve Jobs recent retirement making headlines, I thought back to times in my career when I’ve experienced leadership changes and how difficult that can be for the current employees. On a team level, those changes can significantly affect employee retention when a new leader takes the helm.
At some point, most of us have faced organizational culture changes. Imagine you’re the one stepping in to fill those shoes; do you charge forth and establish your leadership by laying out a brand new course? Do you rely on all the wisdom and skills you’ve gained from your past experiences? Do you take a crash course in leadership?
Or, do you do what my boss did years ago?
As our new Marketing Director, Jim asked each of us out for a one-on-one lunch. I was two levels below him, and beyond nervous. Was this a getting-to-know you lunch, or a grilling to see how well I knew the business? I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst over the next several days.
At lunch, Jim asked about my background. This was a friendly warm-up, but I braced myself for an intense cross-examination. Instead, he surprised me with a simple question. He said, “Ed, if you were me, what are the first three things you would do?” This was not a trick question; he really meant it. Jim, the 12-year company veteran with a stellar track record was asking me, an 18-month rookie, for my opinion on where the corporate leadership needed to focus. What followed was a rich and lengthy discussion on those top three things, with Jim taking notes, listening closely and asking clarifying questions. I soon learned that he did this with everyone on our team.
The following week, he gathered the team together and reported back to us: “Here’s what I’ve learned from you…” And then he laid out a plan based on what he had learned from us. We were astounded. We were further astounded when he presented that plan to his management and credited each idea to the team member who had suggested it. It was the team’s plan, not just his.
Think for a moment on the wisdom of Jim’s approach:
- Jim did not have to come in knowing all the answers; rather, he relied on the collective thinking of the experienced team.
- Jim leveraged the knowledge of the team to put forward a plan, and the team was now instantly loyal to Jim and the success of that plan.
- Without us realizing it, Jim took the team through our first team building experience. We were bonded through the shared input and voice we had in our new leader.
As for the rest of the story, Jim Stengel later became the Global Marketing Officer at Procter & Gamble. He recently left to pursue his own consulting practice and publish his first book. Throughout his career, Jim succeeded by showing that he genuinely valued others ideas and experiences. And everyone loved him for it.
In what ways has a new leader impressed you?