Meeting A New Work Team: One Thing Incoming Leaders Have to Do

Incoming leaders have an important decision to make when they meet a new team: Should they immediately start implementing the ideas they were hired for–or should they gain the buy-in and support of their team first?

New leaders need to take the time to share information and build trust says Dessalen Wood, VP of Talent Development at Cineplex Entertainment. In an interview for the June issue of Ignite she shares a personal example to illustrate her point.

At Cineplex I was hired to replace someone who had been with the company for 20 years. Two of my new direct reports were senior people who had been working with the outgoing leader for close to 15 years. I was at the end of the interview process when the hiring committee let me meet the team as the preferred candidate so that we could get to know each other.

“So I sat down with them and said, ‘What would you like to ask me?’ Like most people, they wanted to know what I was going to be like as a leader.”

Wood knew she had an opportunity to share a model of what their leadership journey would look like. Using the only piece of paper available—a napkin—Wood quickly drew a box and divided it into four quadrants which she labeled S1, S2, S3, and S4 to correspond to a Directing, Coaching, Supporting, and Delegating leadership styles. Next Wood shared that her natural style of leadership was the S3 Supporting style.

I pointed to the quadrant labeled S3 Supporting and I said, ‘This is who I am. I like to participate in your decisions and support you in your decision making. I love to chat and I love to understand and I’m really excited about what you are doing. I want to support you.’

“’But here’s the catch,’” Wood continued. “‘That is the type of leader I am when I know how to do my job well and I am very comfortable in my environment. That’s who I am going to be. But the person you are going to be working with for the next few months is going to need a lot of details and information, which will look more like S1 or S2, or what you would call a micro-manager. The S3 Supporting and S4 Delegating leadership style, which is who I really am, will come only after I have a lot of trust and faith and feel I can responsibly let go.’”

This is important to identify and call out early, explains Wood. Even leaders who are by nature more hands-off and delegating will appear more hands-on and micromanaging when they step into a new role. That’s not because they’ve changed who they are. It’s because they are new to the situation and need more information and understanding before they can responsibly delegate.

Wood’s recommendation?  Help new leaders get off to a fast start by discussing the leadership journey early in the on-boarding process. Then encourage new leaders to share what they’ve learned with their direct reports. Wood even goes so far as to suggest leaders set a “go live” date when they expect to be leading as their real selves.

“People need to see new leaders as learners on their own development journey and understand that the leadership style they are displaying when they are new and a learner is not necessarily going to be the inspiring and wonderful leadership style they’ll use later. This allows the natural empathy and optimism to come out—which is so important in a new relationship. It helps both parties build a really wonderful bond.”

Interested in helping your leaders to a faster start?  You can learn more about Wood’s recommendations by reading her complete interview in On-Boarding New Leaders, Also be sure to check out the complimentary webinar Wood is conducting on June 24 where she will be sharing more information on taking a development-based approach to on-boarding mid-to-senior level leaders.

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