I took over a new team recently. My first impression is that they don't like me. My predecessor had a larger than life image in the organisation. My style is quiet work and my team doesn't seem to relate to my way of doing things. How do I change this? ~ Senior leader, e-Commerce
The dynamics between a leader and team builds and develops over time. There is tension, a pull-and-push till it fits into a harmonious balance. Then, there is lot of mirroring of behaviour that we see. The team copies the leader and the leader understands reality, based on how the team behaves.
A sudden change to this dynamic can lead to a lot of uncertainty and confusion. When there is a leadership change, the team has to re-orient itself to the new leader. That's hard work. Meanwhile, it appears as if the team and the leader are not seeing eye-to-eye.
The common dysfunctions you would notice are highlighted by Patrick Lencioni in his book, "The Five dysfunctions of a team" as below
The biggest dysfunction would be "absence of trust". This could show up as passivity, passive-aggression or non-cooperation.
How to handle unrest in your team?
Do not take it personally
Please note that it is not your fault that you are their leader.
So do not take the resistance personally.
The resistance is stemming from an inability to process change. It has nothing to do with you.
A leader can have different work styles. There is no one style that always works.
2. Allow time to process the loss
Sometimes, what the team mourns is the time they invested in working well with the previous leader, the information about their aspirations that the previous leader knew and the rapport they had.
Allow time for this to get processed. Give them time to process their perceived loss.
3. Listen to understand
Listen to what they are willing to share. Listen to what is sugar-coated. Listen to what is unsaid.
Listen in a way that demonstrates respect & empathy.
Listening when done consistently helps to overcome the trust barrier.
Ask their view points. Ask their feedback.
Ask how they like to be lead. Allow yourself to be wrong.
This helps in initiating engagement in the team and helps them navigate the transition faster.
5. Trim the number of changes
Introducing too many changes - even as your team is adapting - will keep them in discomfort for longer duration.
Prioritise maximum of 3 big changes and communicate (more). Involve the team in ideation & execution.
What could you do differently to be a leader your team needs?