You ask, and we listen—and this article is the first in a series to address our primary mission of providing “Leadership Advice from America’s Most Trusted Leaders!”
Justin, a reader from California, wrote us with the following question:
“I will be joining a team that is already formed and will be their Director. It is a team of 15 that is operating off site at a large client’s place of business. Where I have a question is that from everything I’m seeing, the client is difficult to please, and the staff that I’m taking over is less than professional. The VP that I interviewed with noted that they need a strong leader to shape up the current staff or to remake the staff. That would take a very strong personality. He also stated that the person they are looking for needs to be a little submissive when dealing with the client. I think I have the qualities to be that type of a chameleon, but it seems like a very difficult task. What reading and/or advice would you recommend for me so that I can make my first 90 days a resounding success, and thereby keeping the momentum into the future?”
Justin, we’ve posed your question to our team of GeneralLeadership.com curators and authors to compile the following responses. Although any member of our team would have loved to provide pages of response, we did our best to constrain them to one, succinct paragraph review of your question. We hope the suggestions below are as useful to you as they were fun for us to discuss!
|General Michael Diamond writes: “There are two parts to this challenge you are about to embark on. The first one entails how to lead your staff, and the second one is how to deal with your client. I apologize for not having any specific reading materials that I would recommend but have some sound advice for you to be successful. As for the staff, I would suggest establishing some basic structure such as Mission, Vision, Goals for the organization of 15: Lines of Business; Processes for the group of 15
– then break these down to each of the 15 with the attendant Roles and Responsibilities, Expectations, Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities to do their processes and Metrics; and then identify the resources required to do the processes. You would then know whether the current staff members fit into your organization going forward.As for your client, I would suggest a meeting where you and the client sit down and establish some wants and needs from the client and his/her expectations they have of your organization. It would then be suggested to establish some metrics you both can agree on to move forward and operate under. Hope this helps you get off to a good start.”
|General James Vechery writes: First, you need to have confidence in your ability to take on this challenge as the situation clearly calls more a strong, mature, and proven leader…which is obviously why you were selected. Additionally, this opportunity is what situational leadership is all about. A leader needs to have a core sense of leadership fundamentals, but also needs to adjust methods and actions to fit the situation. Leadership by example is always a great place to start, so I highly recommend you continue to selflessly serve in this role, and set the example for the 15 members to follow. This will likely take some coaching and mentoring along the way, so it’s always good to look for opportunities to provide feedback, both positive and negative. Regarding the particular client, all you can give is your best. Continue to lead this team from the front with a strong sense of vision and purpose and let the results speak for themselves.|
|Colonel Christian Knutson writes:Thanks for sharing your challenge with us. The good thing is that you are aware of the dual-challenge you have of stakeholder expectations. Managing your client, boss and team will take a good dose of political astuteness and leadership. Here are some recommendations:
1) Establish Team Expectations Immediately. Base these on your values/vision, share them immediately with the team, and do not relent.
2) Hold Team Members Accountable. Hold each team member accountable and do not give sway to anyone.
3) Develop a Team Identity. Build the team you’d like to be on, like a family, so that everyone begins to cover-down on everyone else’s back.
4)Create Rapport with the Client from a Position of Strength. Show respect, but be strong at the same time. Know your business, know the client’s business and don’t cave-in to pressure.
5) Consider an exit strategy. Establishing expectations for the team and building client rapport are important, but consider having an exit strategy for yourself if the position become untenable.And here are some valuable books you might consider reading:
– “How to Win and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
– Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success–and Won’t Let You Fail by Keith Ferrazzi
– Why Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
– How to Work for an Idiot by John Hoover (note: I just finished this last book yesterday. Despite the title being a touch “in your face”, it’s really about self-awareness and understanding five different archetypes of managers/leaders.)
|Colonel Christopher P. Levy writes: “Good leaders make their own observations of a new organization before making changes. Take 30 days, if you can, to make an assessment of your team. Use that time to ensure open communication with the client and understand what they need. Once you have a good idea about what is going on with your team, make the changes you think are necessary to improve performance. Set expectations on customer service, demand performance and hold people accountable. Best of luck!”|
|Colonel Mickey Addison writes: “I think the most important things to remember here are consistency and communication. Being a firm leader doesn’t have to translate into being mean, and being customer focused shouldn’t translate to being a doormat. Lay out your expectations with your team and hold them accountable firmly, but professionally. Likewise, communicate honestly with your client so they understand you’re on their team as well, and that you’re as committed to their success as they are. Building relationships while keeping those relationships professional and even warm is the key to navigating this situation.”|
|Colonel Jason M. Brown writes: “It’s probably worth taking more time to understand and frame the problem (mission analysis as we like to say in the military) before you design your approach. A series of questions relating to constraints, specified/implied tasks, assumptions, etc. about the team’s roles and mission might be a helpful start. I would then recommend asking a series of questions about incentives. What incentives are there for the client to be demanding? What incentives are lacking for the team to be professional? What incentives should be in place to facilitate change? I would also recommend setting the right tone off the bat, and make frequent and constant communication the focus…not to micromanage, but to begin the foundation for a coaching relationship (which I describe in my last post). A good book related to this is “Turn the Ship Around” by L. David Marquette. I would set the same tone and expectations re: communication with the client. What would incentivize the desire to communicate in both these cases?”|
|Chief Master Sergeant Michael Klintworth writes: “This is a great question. Having walked into a similar situation this past year, here are a few considerations that worked very well for me and my team. First, ensure all are clear on the team’s purpose/mission. Second, explain to the team the relation and importance of each member’s contribution to that. Third, solicit team and customer inputs for maximizing the service provided to the customer. Forth, set expectations for team member interaction and for providing professional service. Finally, address deviations from expectations and recognize achievements swiftly. Want to build a dream team? Check out my article, “7 Essentials for Building a Dream Team” here on General Leadership. Best wishes!”|
|Chief Master Sergeant Joe Thornell writes: “You are going into this challenge with the right focus, “make my first 90 days a resounding success.” I encourage you to adjust your date to be the first 100 days; this small adjustment seems to make a lot of difference when engaged in a radical change environment and you and the staff will appreciate the length and comfort this adjustment brings. It sounds like you will be adjusting the present culture of your staff and as a result the professionalism and reputation of this detached segment of the organization. I encourage you to craft a plan of execution that is timed with milestones and small celebrations of their accomplishment along the way toward the 100th day. You, and the team, will need small bursts of success and recognition and these will go a long way to eventual success and workplace harmony. I also encourage you to go for it from day 1. Too often in our business and leadership development we are taught to go in easy, observe, ask for inputs, identify areas of change, and then implement slowly. Status quo is already recognized as broken so go for the fix early and make great things happen across the span of your assignment! Stay strong and enjoy this challenge!”|
|Curator Jay S. Levin writes: “Often assumptions and self-limiting beliefs hold us back from success. Here’s 4 questions and 1 recommended action to consider to insure your career success;
1) You say it “seems like a difficult task” difficult compared to what?
2) Difficult can also be creative, complex and interesting. Do you recognize the richness of the task and the value you’ll bring when you solve the problem ? Is it a challenge you’d like to take on.
3) You mention that the team needs a strong leader. If you understood how to compelling engage and motivate the individual members of your team, would you really need to be that strong, especially if you were effective in engaging them?
4) Does a Director who understands how to map and adapt to the behaviors of others to influence them really need to be a chameleon, or just someone who responds authentically and approporiately to the the needs of their internal and external clients in ways that accountabiliy acclerate buy-in and results?One Suggestion: Spend your first week in 1:1 meetings with your team and separately with your client. Agree to key objectives. Set up regular intervals to track progress toward goal achievement. Project manage in an interative way managing results forward. Show successes fast and improvements continually. Win their advocacy. Create raving fans — on the external client side and on your internal team member side!”
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