So you’re finally in the boss’s chair, huh? Before investing in that new nameplate or plotting your next move for world domination, take the time to foster relationships with your underlings. After all, you were there once, too, and happy employees mean a better work environment for all! Here’s how:
Get to know them. We mean more than first names and hometowns. Your new employees may be anxious about what the change in leadership will mean for them. Put their fears to rest by showing a genuine interest in learning more about them. Set a meeting with HR and upper management to find out all you can about your new employees; this will help you to connect with them while mentally flagging any potential problems you might face with different personalities and agendas. Once you’ve settled in, set up one-on-one meetings, noting to each staffer the positives you’ve heard about him or her. Ask employees about their roles, their goals, and what skills they have that aren’t being utilized—and then make it your mission to realize those goals together. Finally, don’t fall into the trap of being super nice up front and then disappearing. Set regular check-ins to revisit goals even after you’re chummy with everyone in the office.
Remove the fear factor: We get it, you’re the boss, and as such you likely have ideas of your own on how things should be run. Let your employees in on these changes well in advance of implementing them so that everyone is on the same page. Set clear parameters of what will be expected of them and provide a (reasonable) timeframe for when you would like those changes to be completed. Make clear what support will be available—say, training on new software or social media integration—and how the shift will benefit them. Finally, use them as a resource; they may know more about the company than you do and could be helpful in making sure your new ideas jive with existing office culture.
Trust them. It’s easy to fall into micromanaging when overseeing people you don’t know, but it won’t make you very popular. Plus, you’ll only be creating more work for yourself. Instead, identify your employees’ strengths and weaknesses and then plan semi-autonomous tasks accordingly. Define the ultimate goal and deadline of each task, then set mini-deadlines for steps along the way. Regular check-ins will allow you to ensure that progress is being made without being overbearing; plus, these check-ins will allow you to adjust your approach as needed to get to the desired goal even faster.
Critique without being critical. Genuine praise can motivate a team to work harder; so can genuine criticism. Focus your feedback on behaviors and skills that you want to see more of while at the same time demonstrating why other approaches aren’t as successful. If one of your employees falls behind, take her aside privately and explain what she did wrong. Lay out the consequences —say, losing a client—so she understands the importance of improving, and then offer support to get her where she needs to be. When she does get there, praise her performance—and then sit down and go over what made her role in the project a success and how it can be repeated.