Here’s a primer on leadership basics, including some dos and don’ts.
1 Communicate and be patient, flexible, and confident. Do not expect immediate results. Anticipate that creating some semblance of alignment will take six to 12 months, especially if you are new to the organization.
Be flexible and patient, and realize that you are working on a mosaic masterpiece, and there is no way of knowing exactly what it will look like on Day One. Be confident that it will be beautiful, no matter what, in the end. Share that confidence.
Over-communicate throughout this process. People will be wary of you and in the absence of information they will come up with their own narrative. Give them yours, even at the risk of sharing more than you are comfortable sharing in a typical situation. This isn’t typical.
2 Allay fears. You are not in your position to change anyone; you are in it to change the trajectory of the organization. Become part of the organization. Do not try to impose your systems (e.g., work hours, attire, office organization) on employees right away; rather, make people comfortable.
Change is the scariest thing for everyone. People are not mind readers, so they will read your actions for signs of things to fear. Don’t give them easy things to be upset about, like changing everything.
3 Get some work done, even if it isn’t integrated and coordinated. Ordain each member of your team to be in charge of something. Every person wants to be noticed for being superior in some way. Plus, it is business so no excuses—dates and deliverables must be honored.
4 Consider a problem statement. Invite staff into crafting a problem statement, if needed. Don’t do it on your own because that will be viewed as your objecting to them and their way of doing things. Once staff can see that things are not optimal, on their own, you will have created a window for change to actually occur.
5 Do it their way—for a while. Invite people into crafting a solution and use their input; don’t simply take it under advisement. Show them that you can learn from them. A few rounds of doing it their way to show that you will listen is important. Also, you will learn something and become a better manager for it.
6 Step back from positional authority. Avoid the temptation to assert positional authority when you get exasperated. If you do, there will be some movement, then retrenchment back to the same, or possibly even worse, behaviors.
You will make mistakes, too. Having a positive, optimistic attitude is key; cheerleading is your job. Staff members are not children, even though they may behave as such at times. Telling them to do something “because you said so,” however, doesn’t work.
7 Exert personal authority by showing your talent. Deliver on a few big things that really matter and a couple that don’t. Once people see you do something that they could not do themselves, or tried to do and failed, they will begin to see the value that you bring and respect you.
8 Form your team by doing the first seven over a six-month period. You will quickly learn which team members have leadership skills, which of them others seem to follow, and who among them are beginning to warm to you and follow your lead. These individuals will have supporters within the organization who will have figured out what you just figured out. Poof: You just identified the change masters.
9 With the blessing and cooperation of your change masters, start doing what needs to be done to make the operation all that it can be. Go slow, but steady. Maintain the alignment of a core group of staff members as you go.
10 Determine who is on the bus and who is off the bus, then close the door and drive. At some point, the others will come in line, and there will be no dramatic showdown. One or two may resign, so say goodbye and good luck to these people.
One or two others may need to be forced out. As long as you have the support of the core, you can do the hard stuff, compassionately, for the good of the organization.