Connect with staff to show you are the boss
I have just started a new job and for the first time in my life I am the boss. I have a team of 15 and because I am new to the company, several of the staff tell me that I should be handling operations in this way or that way. I basically feel that they are trying to tell me what to do to keep the old status quo going but I have new ideas and new plans. How can I stamp my authority on the team without getting everyone's backs up. SM, Abu Dhabi
Dear SM, a famous quote came to mind as I was reading your letter. It was about Maggie Thatcher, who was often pressured by her all-male cabinet. When she felt that they were 'all talk' and could not see evidence of action, she calmly picked up her famous red handbag and uttered: 'A lady should not have to say that she's carrying a red handbag'.
In other words, a leader's actions, conviction, direction, priorities should be so evident to others, there's no need to have to continue to justify, as doubts simply wouldn't exist. How clear are your people currently on who you are firstly and priorities secondly, because if that's not clear, what you do won't even be of interest to the team. Hmmm, now that I've probably burst your bubble, I see the need to continue to do so with even more bubbles.
Let's now take a moment to work with your mindset. Words are simply 'audio mirrors' of your inner thoughts. Perhaps you think your people know you by now - the bad news is they do, for all the wrong reasons. Words like 'I am the boss', 'stamp my authority', 'getting backs up' are not painting pretty pictures. These words are certainly not conducive to collaboration, team environments or great supervision and leadership. I'm only glad we are speaking remotely as I myself wouldn't be too comfortable to work with someone with that mindset.
A friend of mine shared this wonderful dittie the other day - 'you are only a leader if others think you are'. How do you feel when you read that? If people are caring enough to currently provide feedback (regardless of what label you are placing on it), and you are really not showing interest, the cards will just continue to stack against you I'm afraid. Rome wasn't built in a day and I see you classify yourself as new to the company. I'd say that's a great opportunity to connect with everyone, get to know them personally, ask lots of questions and test the waters for the history of change in that company. What might you discover? Perhaps your 15 team members have built the systems they are currently applying and achieved the highest results ever in the company. If so, what could possibly be in it for them to change?
Speaking of Rome, empires can and do come crashing down. Do you have a priority to get yourself noticed and if so take care it is for the right reasons. Getting results is one thing, but at what cost? If you beat previous records with consequences of team turnover and less efficiency, what would those results be worth for you, and your career?
SM, may I suggest you stop and take a deep breath. Trust and heart both represent water for any organisational marathon. Take the time to have others see and feel you and your priorities. Please never forget that people don't leave organisations, but rather their bosses. Are you ready to be a statistic?
Prioritise working through and with the people.
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at email@example.com for the Workplace Doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague