For those who have created and led teams from the ground up, the task is simple. Start the culture you want to set on day 1. However, for those who have joined existing teams in leadership positions, it can be extremely difficult to gain the buy-in and following needed to change a culture to something better. As a people manager, I have led a multitude of teams in my career and had the opportunity to start new teams and move into existing teams. From personal experience, the latter is where important strategies come into play. Outlined below are the steps I have taken to better understand the current culture that exists, find individual strengths and opportunities within a team, and begin to transform mindsets to create a high-performing, motivated, and positive team.
1. Begin with Observation
It is important to avoid the temptation to come in, full force, guns blazing. If your management style is completely different from the last leader that was in your place, this tactic can shock the team and create a perception that will make it that much more difficult to create culture change.
Begin with getting to know everyone on the team. What do they like or not like about their jobs? What are their hobbies outside of work? What are their professional and personal goals? This establishes a foundation for the relationship you have with the team and lets them know that you are invested in each one of them on an individual level. With larger teams, this can be difficult to complete, but do not over-complicate things. Pick just a few questions you can ask that will generate a five-minute conversation with each person and take notes.
2. Establish your Management Style
Take advantage of the ‘get-to-know-you’ conversation and let them know how you lead. Every leader has a different approach, but there are some tactics you should incorporate:
- Open Door Policy: Always encourage open and honest feedback from your team.
- Constructive Criticism: They will never be in the dark when it comes to job performance.
- Non-negotiables: Establish some easy-to-follow, non-negotiable rules as it pertains to your business.
By having this conversation, you are positioning yourself as a firm, yet supportive leader to help drive success within your team.
3. Build Trust
Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. Your team must trust you to gain their buy-in for any kind of culture shift. When a team places their faith and trust in a leader, they know that you have their best interest at heart. A suitable place to start is to make sure you always follow up with any requests your team has of you.
- It is best to keep a record, whether it is a notebook, software, or sticky notes.
- Provide a timeframe of when you will make the follow-up and write it down.
- Even if you still do not have the full answer, let them know you are working on it.
4. Consistent Development
Once a leader has learned their teams’ professional goals, keeping the conversation going and acting on those goals is important. If possible, hold monthly individual development sessions with your team members. Within these sessions, discuss how they are tracking to their goal, actions you have taken as their leader to further their success, and what to get done before the next meeting to get closer to accomplishing the goal.
Once your team knows that you care about them on an individual level, they tend to reciprocate by respecting your management style. Then, when trust is built and development starts to show fruition, you have created an environment where your team is encouraged to do quality work, not to avoid being punished, but because they see the true value in working hard. This environment fosters the positive reinforcement of support and development thus activating intrinsic motivation and creating a high-functioning, high-performing team of happy employees.