Five Tested Tips for New Leaders Like the NFL’s First Female Coach
This week, Jen Welter got a great new job.
She became the first female coach in the National Football League—receiving an offer from the Arizona Cardinals.
Experience and knowledge of the game earned Welter--who holds a PhD in psychology and multiple championship titles from 14 years of play in the Women’s Football Alliance--her career advancement. But as a newcomer to the Cardinals’ organization, Welter faces the challenge of quickly integrating.
For new leaders hired from the outside to a new company, the first 90 days are critical for building reputation and rapport. All eyes are watching. People are sizing up what you do and say—and making fast judgements.
Seize these early moments with five tried and tested tips from Dulye & Co.’s Spectator-Free Workplace™ practices. Use them to minimize disruptions and maximize good will.
- Be inquisitive. Make an active effort to learn more about what and who makes the company tick. Ask questions about the culture. Inquire about formal and informal operating principles that guide day-to-day business exchanges. Explore beyond titles and responsibilities with open-ended questions that reveal the skills, experience and knowledge of people at all levels. By taking interest, you become a part of the group—rather than stand apart from it.
- Make yourself available. Don’t succumb to the LAHI syndrome (the Lost Art of Human Interaction) by sending an introductory email. Set aside time every day to meet with a few team members one-on-one, but don’t invite them into your office. Instead, try getting out to their work space or—in Jen Welter’s case, their locker-- for casual conversations. Three poignant questions to ask are: “What is one thing that you think I really need to know about our team? Our company? You?” Put away your mobile device, and bring along a pen and notepad to record insights. Additionally, seek feedback about how and when to conduct team huddles, staff meetings and performance discussions. Let the team’s ideas shape a formal communication plan rather than you dictate the details.
- Survey your team. It’s crucial from the start to know the rumors, perceptions, concerns and questions that are swirling around your team. Unaddressed, these factors can sideline a new leader. Select a neutral third party with great interview skills to canvas team members for their honest feedback. Guarantee their anonymity to keep the comments and their flavor real. In Jen Welter’s case, the interviewer should ask: “What do you already know about Jen as a boss?”, “What don’t you know about Jen as a boss, but want to know?”, and “What concerns do you have about Jen as your boss?” Probing questions will flush out rumors and mysteries that typically accompany the arrival of a new leader. Once data is gathered, hold a roundtable session where the third-party interviewer shares all questions and comments unfiltered, and the new leader responds—also unfiltered. Direct dialogue signals that you are open, approachable and respect diverse views.
- Build a playbook together. Canvas recommendations from the team for creating a better place to work. Get concrete ideas for improving work practices, work tools and other dynamics that drive individual and group performance. Ensure that team members explain what’s currently impeding progress so that you fully understand the situation. Use this feedback to develop a playbook that creates optimum conditions for personal bests. Now that’s superstar coaching!
- Be responsive. Don’t let phone messages and email queries from team members pile up. Respond to them real-time or, at the very least, same day. Delay makes others feel unimportant and erodes reputation. Foster relationships by replying to an email with a phone call or in-person visit. Outreach like this enables you to go beyond the original subject of the correspondence and gain more perspective.