How to be a good manager to new team

February 4, 2021

People don’t leave their companies, they leave their managers and their teams. The numbers are frightening… 

  • 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores is directly attributed to managers*
  • Yet only 12% of employees feel their managers do enough to engage them**

It’s really no surprise that managing a new team can feel daunting, whether it’s your very first time as a manager or you’ve done it before.

But there are some easy(ish) ways to avoid the common mistakes that new managers make, no matter the industry or the type of team you operate in.

1. Build trust with your direct reports

If you only take one thing away from this article, I hope it’s this: In your first weeks as a manager it is crucial to establish trust and set the foundations for open two-way communication. 

Your one-to-ones with your new direct reports are the perfect opportunity to get to know each other better and trust each other more. In each first meeting, your focus should be on listening and asking the right questions in order to give your employees an opportunity to share their thoughts on your new role.

These questions are perfect agenda for your first one-to-ones with your direct reports because they send a few important messages 

  • I really want to get to know you 
  • Your opinion matters to me
  • I don’t have all the answers (more on that later)

CoachBot's Templates help you prepare for these conversations

  1. What’s most important to you in your career?
  2. What does an ideal, productive work day look like to you?
  3. What’s not fun about working here?
  4. Who is really kicking ass in the company? Who do you admire?
  5. If you were me, what changes would you make?
  6. What’s the biggest opportunity that we’re missing out on?

2. Schedule regular 1-1's

Great job on having your first one-to-ones with your new direct reports! Now make a commitment to having them on a regular basis and do everything you can to stick to it. 

If you get into a regular cadence with a structure that works best for you, your colleagues will know with certainty when they’ll be able to talk about whatever is on their mind. This can be very reassuring and shows them that the support is there. By making yourself available, you’re letting your team know that you’re always there to help and they shouldn’t be scared to come to you with questions.

It also gives you both a chance to improve from one meeting to the next. Spend a few minutes reflecting on the format and what you’ll do differently next time.  E.g Did I talk too much instead of listening; what ratio of talking-to-listening should I aim for next time?

3. Set clear expectations

Your team expects a motivating vision and clear goals. They’ll feel safer and more engaged when they understand the strategy and know where they stand. 

On the other hand, your new employees don’t want to be told what to do - they want to feel involved in the process. It’s not an easy line to navigate, but it’s doable. 

CoachBot’s tried-and-tested coaching frameworks involves the whole team in these two crucial alignment conversations:

Agree your team’s purpose together: Teams that know why they exist perform better. Being able to articulate a clear purpose at the team-level gives you something to rally behind and act like a north-star when you make decisions or discuss priorities.

Agreeing team behaviours: Decide on the ways of working for you as a team and make it explicit. Working together to define your behaviours improves trust, accountability and responsibility within a team.

4. Cultivate team spirit

By creating behaviours and agreeing on a purpose as a team, you’ve already started to create a team spirit but there are a few ways to build on this. 

Team meetings

Use part of your team meetings to share information about what’s going on in the wider organisation.

Invite questions from your team members, even the tricky ones. One way of doing this is to ask “what are we not daring to ask right now?” or “what’s the elephant in the room?”

Or dedicate the first part of your team meetings to a team retrospective. This can take as little as 15 minutes and gives the team an on

  • What’s gone well recently? 
  • What could be improved?
  • What have we learnt?

Peer one-to-ones

Peer one-to-ones are a great way to create a team spirit. Whether members of your team need to collaborate closely or loosely, peer one-to-ones will allow them have a wider understanding of how the team works across functions and a shoulder to lean on when times get tough.  

Depending on the size of your team, it may not be feasible for everyone to have one-to-ones with each other. Identify key relationships within the team where more trust would improve the team’s overall performance.

5. Stay humble and curious

Nobody likes a know-it-all, especially if you’re brand new to the company and your team has been there for a while. Here are some examples of how you can stay humble, and create trust in doing so. 

  • Show some vulnerability by admitting to mistakes and recognising you don’t have all the answers. “This is my first time leading such an experienced team” could get you further than you think. 
  • Stay curious rather than making assumptions or blaming teammates. If team members sense you’re trying to blame them – they will close up. So instead of asking “Why are we doing this?” try “I’d love to understand the thought process behind this”. There might have been a better reason than you think.
  • You’re going to have some difficult conversations with your direct reports sooner or later. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge when you’re out of your depth and ask your manager for help. Alternatively, find a library of reliable manager resources to turn to when you’re faced with a new challenge. 

By modelling these key behaviours, the rest of your team is more likely to feel safe, show their vulnerable side and stay humble.

CoachBot makes it easy for any manager to be a great manager. Get in touch to find out more.


* Research by Gallup

**  Mind of the Leader by Hougaard & Carter, Michelle McQuaid 2012 survey

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