“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.” - C.G. Jung
Leaders are attuned to the people around them. Sometimes this means that they focus too strongly on the negative in the people they lead. This can be especially perilous when a leader “inherits” a new team through a promotion or is hired into a new position.
Everything you enter into may be new; your boss, your peers, your team members, the culture and your responsibilities. This can cause your sense of self-protection to be on alert and overly critical of everything including your new team.
Under pressure to achieve business results and prove yourself quickly, your reaction may be to “clean house” and start over with team members of your choosing. It’s a normal reaction that that can take time and energy away from your mission.
Instead, soften your gaze. Look at your new team with eyes of understanding.
Observe them thoroughly with your whole attention. Looking for the good in others is hard when you feel you’re under fire. Set an intention to find the positive in each individual. Spend time with your new team members to understand the good, the bad, and everything in between. Observe beyond the words you hear from them to determine if their actions follow their words. Ask yourself if there is potential in the team members you’re judging harshly.
Coach those who need it. Look for those who have positive qualities/skills/behaviors that outweigh the negative ones. As you enter into coaching them, observe their level of willingness to take ownership of their own behavior (they will be exhibiting the opposite of defensiveness, and will show some enthusiasm around becoming the best person they can be). These are the employees you want to keep: they’ll welcome your coaching. Chances are excellent that they will grow and develop.
Reassess your opinions. The team you took on was likely experienced and you may be able to learn a lot from them. Once you’ve decided that you have a team you can work with, look for the best that they have within them while remaining realistic about the capabilities they have (or may not have). Decide if you need to shift the work around so that your employees are in the positions where they can be most successful. If you don’t have a spot for some, help them to find work elsewhere.
When you begin to lead a new team, spend time getting to know them, coaching them, and reassessing your opinions of their potential. In the end, your decisions will be made with information you’ve gathered by seeing them through eyes of understanding.
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Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small- sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.