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Winning over your new team

Emilie Jo Ipsen
Emilie Jo Ipsen

Winning over a team is difficult. Every time employees have to get used to a new manager, they can be downright sensitive to the change.

No matter how careful a manager may be and no matter how hard they try to avoid classic managerial mistakes - the mere presence of the new manager can already trigger shock waves in the team.

Don't take it personally: it's just a part of teamwork. The introduction of a new person - especially of a new leader - requires a collective effort from the group. You can control how your employees get to know you as a leader (and you should). These are five tactics for winning over your team:

1. Celebrate the team's successes

Get to know the history of the team by asking each person what they are particularly proud of so far.

Ask about successes (and to a lesser extent failures) and how these events have affected people. If you learn of things that make the team strong, celebrate those things. For example, are there traditions for recognizing high performers or reaching new milestones?

If so, then incorporate yourself in them, You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Join in on the things already working great, and show the team that you are a part of it. If you step in and directly acknowledge what works in the team instead of leading with criticism, many people will want to work with you.

2. Penetrate the team culture

Culture is based on a set of beliefs, assumptions and unwritten rules that guide and shape people's behavior - is a sensitive issue. Do your best not to judge or even condemn when you are just getting to know the culture of your team.

Nobody likes to be told that their culture is wrong or broken (even if it is). For example, your employees may have the habit of talking across their desks all day long, in addition to work. You may think that the work environment would be immediately more productive if these conversations were not held or only at certain, fixed times.

However, don't enforce a "don't talk, don't interrupt" policy on the first day. Because while your goal may be to help everyone work more efficiently, you'll only be perceived as the one who upsets the usual workflow.

A wiser step is to wait and talk to the team members about why you think a small change makes sense and is helpful, and how you envision the change. Instead of rushing to implement changes in the team culture, take the time to make everyone feel that they are helping to shape that culture. In the end, if you impose your ideas the team will automatically reject them, especially if you are a new member and they vary from an enforced top-down approach. Instead, take your time to become a part of the team, consider their input and work on it together. The goal is for you to be a part of the team, even when managing it, so you too are dependent on a good cooperative culture within your team.

3. Roll up your sleeves and get to work

First impressions really count, and people want to know that their boss cares. Don't be afraid to roll up your sleeves and help if the group is under pressure and you can help.

In other words, be the leader who sits there with the rest of the team a little longer and fills envelopes on the day of a big mailing or helps move event material from the service elevator along with everyone else. It makes you more relatable and approachable, which are exactly the qualities you want to portray when entering a team.

Taking part in these joyless but very necessary team tasks shows that you do not feel like you are too good for these everyday tasks. It will make the conversation about being a team player all the more credible because you have already proven that you are serious about it.

4. Take the first step

Do not wait for your employees to approach you: take the first step and show initiative.

Remember, one of the most important wishes of people is to be seen and acknowledged (by their boss, but also in general). When you start in your new position, manage a bit by walking around in the team. Introduce yourself and ask questions. Be present and see your team. Make sure to spend some time talking to every team member so that all feel included and it breaks the ice for further conversations.

It may be uncomfortable at first, but introducing yourself and meeting people in your own field is a great first step to building trust and credibility with your employees.

5. Develop a mission statement for the team

A mission statement or a credo is a descriptive and condensed statement of the beliefs and values that guide the team's actions. Over time, you will want to make a credo out of what you learn about the team and its work. You can invite your employees to help you do this.

A motto should summarize the work goals and look toward the common future. Such statements can motivate the team every day and help the employees to feel more like a unit, especially when everyone has worked out the statement together.

6. Be patient

The most important thing is to give the team time to get to know you. Be yourself and don't accelerate the process with pressure, but rather through curiosity and appreciation for your employees.

If you approach them openly you will most likely receive the same treatment and you and your team can start to get to know each other and grow together into a cohesive unit.

You can reach our international team in Hamburg by phone at +49 40 53 799 1400 or by mail at

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