Gene was a new area manager and part of his new territory was to oversee the team at the largest revenue store in the company.
His first day in the role included touring the store for a few hours and introducing himself to the management and team members there. The store had great potential but the team was struggling and had new supervisors assigned in the last few weeks.
One of the key supervisors, Sherry, was on duty that day. As they were talking, Sherry, who was very skeptical of the new management changes, asked Gene point-blank, “So what changes are you going to make?”
Almost without thinking, Gene responded, “Not sure, Sherry. What changes would you like to see?”
Instantly, Gene could see Sherry’s defenses drop. Her face became relieved and her eyes opened with hope. She immediately and enthusiastically gave him her thoughts. Gene eagerly wrote it all down then proceeded to follow-up on her ideas over the next couple of weeks.
What Gene exhibited in that situation was being others-aware in his servant leadership. He knew that while he had ideas and those who he reported to had ideas, he needed to consult those closest to the customer and find the best solutions to allow all parties to be aligned.
But the most important thing Gene did, and quite consciously, is give Sherry a voice for her ideas. Many times, leaders in a new role or assignment will impose changes first to right the ship then work on building the relationships afterwards. In this case, he established the team first by asking Sherry and each of her colleagues about their thoughts then immediately started to act on them.
Many times, leaders in a new role or assignment will impose changes first to right the ship then work on building the relationships afterwards.
By creating a priority of hearing and acting on the voices of people, a leader can gain instant credibility with his or her team to ease the transition process of the new role and better align everyone by building trust.
It’s a simple, effective and proven principle of servant leadership. Serving your people with their best interests will allow you to develop a strong sense of teamwork and rapport.
Once leaders do this, they also set the stage for consistent action. People will see through the leader who is receptive at first then changes color afterwards (kind of a bait-and-switch style of leadership) and that will decimate a leader’s effectiveness and reputation quickly.
A leader who is resolute in displaying and continuing a servant leadership style will start out with strong alignment, a high degree of trust, and a more engaged team of performers. These factors will enable the leader to attain better levels of achievement in the organization. It sets a delicate balance for the leader; his or her true colors and agenda will be measured against the baseline set. Servant leaders will be able to measure up while others will struggle.
While I believe people can overcome a bad first impression, that first interaction with a new team can be an essential step towards success if handled with the correct mindset.
With Sherry’s help, Gene was able to guide the team to understand their opportunities for development, which enabled them to meet their goals consistently for the coming years. He realized it was that team-first mentality that got the team committed to him and to making the changes that were requested. The store’s sales and sense of pride soon became the model for the organization as a result.
Handle your new role and/or new team with care. If done correctly the results can be tremendous in creating a company or department of deep trust and commitment.
More From Paul LaRue
Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership, strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.