Tell Us About You – What a Team Wants to Know About a New Leader

A client, let’s call him Joe, who recently joined a global consumer goods organization, participated in a process known as a New Leader Assimilation about a month into his employment with the firm. Joe’s organization strongly believes that the success of a new leader is greatly enhanced by using a New Leader Assimilation to aid the ramp-up of the new leader by accelerating the time it takes to build communication and trust between team and leader. In the natural course of events, especially when team members are spread across multiple locations, it may take six months or more for a necessary level of communication and trust to develop. Organizations today can hardly accept anything but a rapid ramp-up and impact from a new leader. Recognizing the need to accelerate the process, some organizations are employing a process sometimes known as New Leader Assimilation.

In Joe’s case, a facilitator met with his team (without him present) and, in a confidential forum, solicited responses to a series of questions. Questions included: “What does the team need to know about the new leader to team challenges? What is working well? What could be better?” The facilitator then anonymously shared the feedback with Joe and discussed his reaction and response. Following that discussion, Joe met directly with his team and addressed a number of key points raised by the team. While some of the issues raised pertained to specific details about the business operation, there were a number of questions related to learning more about Joe. These questions followed a common pattern among teams with new leaders:

Vision and priorities: Where do you see us in 3-5 years? What are your short term priorities?

Initial perceptions and/or concerns about the business, market, and team: What have you heard about us? What assumptions do you have? What do you need to have clarified?

Definition of “success” and “change”: How do you define these terms (be as specific as you can; examples help)?

Work and leadership style: What means do you prefer for communication (meetings, memos, emails, drop-ins, etc.)? How much information and how often? Work style preferences, including work hours (office/nights/weekends)? Expectations for the team? Hands-on to hands-off? Interaction with corporate office staff? How do you prefer to communicate with us? How will we know how we are doing?

About You: What do you see as your strengths? What areas would you like to develop? Interests outside of work? How you balance work and personal life? Career highlights/lowlights?

Knowing that teams have a common interest in these areas, a new leader might move quickly to address some or all of the topics within days of coming on-board. If a team meeting is not practical in that timeframe, the new leader should consider sharing with the team a written summary discussing these topics and following up in a meeting as appropriate at a later time. In any case, do not delay. Teams want to know about you, your vision and priorities, and expectations sooner rather than later.