Guest Post by Aaron Armour
I walked through the doors as a new manager with confidence, excitement and a notebook full of ideas. I expected some challenges, of course, but I knew the team would rally and fight through anything.
I knew the business was underperforming, customer traffic was declining and employee turnover was high. And I fully expected to make a turnaround.
Then my ears began to ring.
“You’re too young to be the manager.”
“I’ll be impressed if you last here in 6 months.”
“At least with [the old manager] we knew what we had. Now things will have to get worse before they get better.”
These (and others too unsavory to be published) are comments that I heard on my first day as a new manager. To be fair, there was some truth to their comments: I was a young 20-something with more education than experience.
It was becoming clear that the environment was caustic and I was not welcome.
I was smart and had confidence in my skills but the resistance from my team made me doubt everything.
As Millennials advance into leadership positions they will experience the same conundrum I did: How can you build a team when facing resistance and criticism?
Here are 4 tips I learned from that experience as a young leader:
1 – Communicate
Resistance to change is born from the fear of an unknown outcome. (tweet to share) The real value of communication is to help your team anticipate the outcome that will result from changes. Failing to address expected outcomes leaves your team to over- or under-estimate what to expect. Quickly they start talking to each other about what’s going to happen next.
Almost immediately your team is too busy creating needless spin that they can’t implement the changes you need to make. Recovering from that environment is a major undertaking; and it’s difficult to move the team forward until it has been resolved.
2 – Know the Root Cause of Criticism
When I was a young leader I relied heavily (that’s code for “too much”) on my team members’ feedback. The team was vocal with their displeasure in changes I was making. Because I was listening too closely to the complainers I was constantly wavering in what to do next. Consequently the team suffered and I couldn’t move the team forward.
Questions kept coming to mind. “If the team is this concerned with my leadership and the future of the business, what should be done differently?”
It took too long to realize the criticism was rooted in a resistance to change. Some were worried that the comfortable environment they enjoyed was going to change. Others were concerned they would lose their jobs due to higher performance standards. Bottom line: the criticism had very little to do with me.
3 – Don’t Use Dictator Leadership
Using your position to dictate tasks to your team is a bad plan. Unfortunately that is the style that comes most naturally to leaders. After all, leaders are responsible for the team’s performance so why wouldn’t they tell them what to do? This is the fastest way to disenfranchise the team.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to fix the situation. 2 sentences will take you farther than 80% of the managers out there. “I want to accomplish X. What do you think is the best way to do that?”
Asking for their input is the fastest way to get collaboration. (tweet to share) Your team member will be able to participate in the solution and you get increased participation when it is time to execute the plan. You may decide against their idea, but including them in the process will go a long way to build the team culture you need to be effective.
4 – Listen
You listen to be informed. You listen to keep your team engaged. You listen to give value to the speaker.
Some people equate listening with doing whatever the speaker is telling them to do. It’s not. If it were, you would constantly be pulled into the criticism vortex we talked about in Tip 2. Instead take each suggestion and ask yourself, “Will this bring us closer to achieving the goal?”
Leading a team is hard work. It takes confidence, skill and commitment to do it well. There will be resistance to your leading. It can also be extremely rewarding. Using these four management tips will shave years off the manager’s learning curve.
I would love to hear your thoughts on leading a team!
What’s one tip you would add to this list to be a better manager?
Aaron has been managing teams for more than 15 years, some as large as 200 employees. Manager Launch Pad was created to help managers experience rapid growth. Find more about Aaron at ManagerLanunchPad.com, on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Join the Conversation
4 Tips for Young Leaders
Really enjoyed this, Aaron. I think you offer great advice! I’d also add, don’t let someone else’s criticism become your truth. I’ve seen many managers who were smart, humble and ready to engage shy away truly stepping up. Moreover, I’d tell other new managers in similar circumstances that on day one of work none of those people know you, your approach or style, give it time before you give up.
I’m glad you enjoyed it Alli! Criticism does seems to take over a disproportionate amount of attention. And the fear of criticism keeps many from “stepping up” as you mention. Thanks for sharing!
Good post and very to the point Aaron. You ask what tips would we add.
#5 Don’t recoil from the tough moments of human interaction. Spot the bullies – both aggressive and passive aggressive — and address these issues. Morale can plummet cliques rise. People spend a great deal of time at work and dreading it creates churn and needless turnover.
Thanks for that insight, Kate. You’re absolutely right about addressing bullies right away. If a manager can’t set the tone by dealing with them, it will be the good people that leave.