April 8th, 2019
Starting a role as a new manager is exciting, but forging so many new relationships from scratch can be a little scary, too. As with any relationship, trust is key, and that’s especially so between manager and employee. Without it, you’ll all suffer; employees will be hesitant to come to you with problems, less likely to take risks, and less engaged overall.
By going into your first week on the job with the goal of building that crucial foundation of trust, you’ll be setting you and your team up for success later on. Here are some ways you can kick start that process right away.
Go on a listening tour
In your first week, take time to sit and talk with each person on your new team. Don’t worry too much about structure; people will generally share things they want you to know, things that are important to them. So, listen. Their insights will help you understand the landscape better while also giving you an idea of how this person views things. When dealing with quieter people who are less forthcoming, be ready with some prompts. “What do you love about your job?” “What do you wish you knew more about?” “What’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?”
Some other tips for your listening tour:
In these conversations, remember that you should be doing much more listening than talking. It’s great to ask clarifying questions or dig deeper into a specific topic, but it’s best to let your new employees lead.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. It’s tempting to agree to fix the first problem a new employee tells you about, but learn more before committing to something concrete.
At the end of each conversation, thank them and plant a seed for continued communication. For example, “Thanks so much for sharing all of this with me. It’s giving me a better idea of how everything works and what I’ll need to focus on. I’d love to hear more about ___, too. Can we talk again soon about that?” This shows you’re appreciative, have truly heard them, and are keeping the door open for future conversations.
Make time for informal conversation
It can be easy to be all-business, especially when you’re starting at a new job, but I’d encourage you to also make time for small talk. Getting to know people as people, not just worker bees, will go a long ways towards building real and trusting relationships. Ask about their lives outside of work or just take a minute to chat about non-work-related events. It’ll also give you a chance to uncover common interests and connect on a different level.
You’ll be full of questions in your first week. You should absolutely ask them, and not just of your own manager. Turning to your new employees will do a few things: it’ll show them you’re curious about their work, demonstrate that you trust them, and give you more face time to build those relationships.
Admit when you don’t have the answers
On the flip side, it’s okay if you can’t answer all the questions your employees ask of you. There’s nothing worse than a know-it-all, except maybe a brand-new-to-the-team know-it-all. Eventually, yes, you do need to be a source of knowledge and guidance that they can turn to, but acting like you have all the answers upfront is disingenuous and will ultimately undermine trust. Instead, try this phrase on for size: “You know, I’m not entirely sure. Let me go learn more and get back to you.” Expressing some vulnerability also goes a long way to demonstrating that you’re honest, straight forward, and self-confident, too.
Bring your whole self
Being genuine and open lets other people in and gives you more ways to connect with and relate to one another. I love seeing new managers who bring their whole selves, their real selves, to work starting week one because it’s a great first step towards building trust.
This means being open and sincere and sharing some details about your life. If you’re a parent, talk about your kids. If biking is your driving passion, that should come up, too. The more your new employees view you as a real person and not just their boss, the easier it will be for them to connect with you in a meaningful way.
Follow through on your commitments
The number one way to build trust in week 1 is by demonstrating that you are accountable. For any promise you make — to find an answer and get back to someone, to fix a problem they’ve raised with you, to take someone out to coffee — it’s absolutely essential that you follow through. While these may be small asks, each one is an opportunity to prove to your new team that you’re reliable, accountable, and ultimately worthy of their trust.
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