What To Do When Joining a Pre-Existing Team as the New Leader

You just got promoted, or maybe you just took a leadership position in a new company. Regardless, you will probably find yourself leading a pre-existing team. Team members know each other well, but you are the new one on the team.

Here are a few tips that clients have found to be universal principles of success for this scenario.

Building Rapport and Establishing Trust

1. Get to know your team well.

The faster you can build a connection with each member of the team, the more you will understand each other. You will build trust. You and your team members will discover how to leverage each other's strengths and contain one another's weaknesses.  More than that, you will be building a foundation for bringing the team to the next level.

2. Learn who the influencers in the company are.

In whatever organization you are in, there are certain people who have tremendous influence. Many times it is the leaders, but often you may discover that there is an administrative assistant who seems to hold a lot of influence.  Don't forget that each team has a member who is not the leader, but who wields a lot of sway over the others on the team.  As early as you can, you want to be actively building relationships with those people. Influencers can help you bust through obstacles. They can catalyze other relationships for you. Influencers also help with that next promotion. But even more than that, they will help you master the role you are in. Get to know who they are and build relationships with them.

3. Go through Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, for yourself, your team, and if possible, with your boss.

One of the first things you will need to understand is what is the most important part of your role, your team’s role, and your boss’ role. This book will help you do just that.  The more you, your team, and your boss are focused on the most important part of your roles, the more you all will move to the next level.

4. Find a base hit that is at the core of your role, your team’s role, or your boss’ role and fulfill it within 90 days.

Many start in a new role and just want to observe.  Others start, but they want to make a big grand slam home run right away.

In most cases, I've discovered that the clients who deliver base hits are the ones who win over their stakeholders and fellow associates.

Look for something that’s important in your role, your team’s overall role, or your boss’ role, where a base hit can be created.

If you can consistently deliver base hits, you will achieve remarkable results for you and your team.

Be sure to have one completed within the first 90 days so that it influences the perception people have of you.

5. Observe, observe, observe.

You will probably need to become a student for awhile, learning from your team members, peers, and boss how to accomplish meaningful actions.

You need to get the lay of the land first. If you try to make big bold moves right away, you may not realize until it’s too late that the big bold move was a colossal mistake because it did not fit the way the team or department works.

People tend to struggle with change. They want to build trust with you before things become massively different. Give them a chance to do that, and you will see how much more buy-in you will get.

Congratulations on landing the new position. You have the competence to pull off what you were hired to do. Now it is time to apply some principles and emotional intelligence to build relationships and set a foundation for major impact.

Enjoy the ride.

Chew On This:

  • What can you do to know your team better?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

What I Learned About Being A Great Direct Report From An 18-Year-Old Intern

On Thursday of last week, I said goodbye to the youngest intern RCBA has ever had. She only worked with us for about six weeks, but she made such an impact that it was really hard to see her leave.

Megan is sharp, mega-talented, and has a keen strategic mind, but beyond all of that competence, she knows how to connect to people’s hearts, really commit, and fight hard to do what she does with excellence and love.

Let me give you an example. As my team is growing, I wanted to learn more about how I can lead them better. (Yes, I see the irony of the leadership coach wanting more insight on how to lead his own team.)

So I asked Megan to do some research on best practices, hoping to learn new ways to improve my leadership, which I could then pass on to clients.  Not only did she do precisely what I asked her to do, but without my asking her, she tailored her research to my personality type (ENFJ) and, more specifically, to what she had already learned about me.

When I read what she wrote, I was speechless.

I then gave her more responsibilities, which she mastered just as deftly. Then, with clients’ permission, she listened in on meetings and helped improve our trainings.

She has all the marks of someone who will go far in anything she decides to do.

If I take what I learned from her and add what I've learned from the other super talented team members we have at RCBA, I can see there are traits or practices that could lead to excelling in any role in virtually any company.

7 Traits of an Excellent Direct Report

1. Give your heart to what you do.

Are you just existing? Do you come alive when you are working? Is work just a paycheck? What if it were possible for you to come alive at work if you gave yourself to it?

I don't mean you should make work the number one priority in your life. That's not it. I mean fully commit to doing whatever is necessary to produce excellence during the hours that you are there. Invest, make sacrifices, find ways to make it fun, get to know those you work with, leverage their strengths, etc.

If you are in a toxic environment or doing something that really isn't you, then consider making a change. We spend so much time at work we might as well be fully engaged while we’re there. You have the power to increase your own engagement: just commit, invest, and sacrifice for it.

2. Set boundaries.

Megan and I could really enable each other to reach workaholic levels, but one thing Michael and Haley taught me was to set limits according to priorities.

For example, my wife and kids are a higher priority than work.  Intentionally blocking off time during the week, rarely working on Saturday and not working at all on Sundays has helped to cherish and grow my relationships with them. Having non-negotiable blocks for my wife and kids has helped me to make the most of my time at work and has helped me to enjoy work more.

3. Improve core competencies.

If you want to have a high impact at work, look for the most important thing which your role, your boss’ role and/or your team’s role requires, and start there. You will feel a ton of gratitude come your way.

4. Know yourself and your team well.

Megan is a self-professed Myers-Briggs geek. She leverages her ENTJ strengths and adapts to other personality types to foster greater communication and reduce the chance of conflict.

Ask each team member:

  • How to work successfully with them
  • How to energize them
  • What frustrates them
  • What stresses them out
  • What they are looking to improve about themselves
  • What they look like when they are chronically stressed, and how to best help them if they are there. (Often it is providing them with something that energizes them.)

Be sure to give them your answers to the bullet points above. We created templates for each personality type that you can use. You can find them here.

5. Manage up well.

Your boss does some things really well.  Other things could use improvement.

Megan was great at being able to see what I needed help with, and to fill in that gap.  She also gave some tips in passing that were very helpful.

If your boss wants to grow, that would be helpful.

6. Go beyond what you were asked to do.

If you always look for a way you can go beyond what you were asked to do, this will show your boss that you want to exceed expectations.  Don’t be surprised if your reviews and bonuses reflect that.

Make sure you complete what you were asked to do and then, in a separate part, show how you went beyond.

7. Risk sharing how things can be improved.

Ask how and when you can share some things that you believe could be improved.  Make sure that you are asking from a place of humility, not know-it-all arrogance.

Once you are given permission, say I’ve noticed X.  I wonder if Y could be a way to improve X.

Then let the brainstorming begin.

Becoming a valued resource for your boss, team, or company starts by committing not just your head but your heart to the role.  Looking for ways to go beyond sets you up for promotion and for leaving a lasting legacy in your role.

Chew On This:

  • What would help you to commit both your head and your heart to what you do?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company.


The Mark of a Master Strategist

Master strategists are a rare breed of people.  They are able to play high level chess and make it look as simple as playing checkers. A few years ago, I started working with a vice president whose role was to head up a Latin American department for a Fortune 1000 company.  As we brainstormed different initiatives, he more than showed himself to be a master strategist.

As his coach, my job was to provide an environment where he could explore various options for resolving the issues he wanted to resolve.  As he answered questions, I learned so much about strategizing that I felt like I should pay him for letting me sit in on his “thinking time.”

If you want to become a master strategist, there are certain key disciplines to consider developing.  If you read last week’s blog, you will know that the insights on this blog and the next come from a team of very talented directors in a well known global company.

While being tactical is a practical, hands-on skill, strategy is a thinking skill.  One that can be grown and developed.

Certain personality types, especially INTJ’s, have a strong predisposition towards becoming master strategists, but the VP that I mentioned in the first paragraph, along with many other ISTJ or ESTJ VPs I’ve worked with, have grown from being master tacticians to developing a real knack for being strategic.

Here are the marks of a master strategist:

1. Master strategists free up time & then fiercely protect that time.

Strategists must have room in their schedule and mind to think.  They look for ways to block off even 15 mins just to think.

Once they free up time, they protect it, just like they would an important meeting. Time and space to brainstorm are not seen as a waste but as an essential part of success.

Without taking this first step seriously, they wouldn’t be able to move to upper levels of strategy.

2. They spend time with those who are also master strategists and those that are higher up than them.

Nothing beats being around the masters. They look around and find those who really get strategy and become a regular feature on their calendar. They ask if they can sit in on times when they are brainstorming strategies with their team and soak it all in. A master strategist surrounds himself with like-minded people.

3. They think long term.

Master strategists typically think long-term--3, 5 and even 10 years ahead. They consider how the events of today are going to impact that time frame. They think about other industry events and where they will be in the long term. In essence, they are futuristic, taking into account the long-term impact of their decisions.

4. They stay close to the company’s broader vision.

Master strategists pay close attention to the company’s broader vision and align strategies with it.  This is a great way to gain buy-in throughout the organization.

5. They cultivate different points of view.

Master strategists develop relationships with different departments so that they can get a feel for what they care about, how they think about it, the concerns and issues they have, what they consider to be successes and where they sense the future is headed.

In doing so, they are able to spot trends (see below) and think big picture.

6. They step back & spot trends.

As they get to know different departments, master strategists start to see certain themes that are consistent across the company. They see how others in the company think through things. They see things the way that higher-ups see them. But they also get a feel for what is going on in the front lines, which often the higher-ups don’t get to see as quickly as they might.

They also look at the data and see what the company wants to invest in over the long haul.

7. They plan ahead to take advantage of those trends.

Once they see the trends, they ask themselves how, in their specific role, they can take advantage of those trends.

They manage risks by first filling the facts box and sharing those facts with key executives; then, they can write a summary page so the executives know what they will be getting.

They must define what issues they are facing and be thorough with the process.

They need a robust fact base to make sure that they are solving for a real need.

Any alternatives should be fought about.

Strategic thinking is about asking the right questions: How will we win?  What is at stake?  How do you define success? What would the different departments say about this plan?

Master strategists think of all the angles so they can anticipate every question and plan for it with their team. They also make sure they are clear on what they need to execute their plan.

8. They foresee obstacles and plan ahead to overcome those obstacles.

Master strategists also consider the obstacles that are going to come.  Once they see the trends, they ask themselves what obstacles will naturally appear.

They take the list and decide how their team can best tackle those obstacles before they even arise.

9. They get validation and buy-in, paying close attention to feedback.

They consider who needs to buy in, thinking in terms of what the stakeholders value and how their plan fits in with those values.

As they implement their plan, they pay attention to the feedback they receive and make tweaks. They are aware of when it may be best to abandon the plan.

10. They anticipate the informational needs of their boss and boss’s boss.

Thinking in terms of what their boss and boss’ boss want to know to make decisions at their level, they may gain greater insights in how to think strategically.

Becoming a master strategist is easier for some than for others.  However, everyone can improve their strategic skills by recognizing the marks of a master stragetist.


Chew On This:

  • How can you become a more skilled strategist?
  • Who on your team embodies these strengths?


Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high-performing-teams.

How To Participate In A Meeting Effectively

How to participate in a meeting effectively.About a month ago I wrote about how to lead a meeting effectively. Now it is time to look at some principles that will help us to participate in a meeting effectively. As the leader of your team, it is imperative that you help your team make the most of the meetings they participate in.  

The common perception of meetings is that they are drudgery.  The reality is, however, that meetings can be a time when the magic happens.  But magic won’t happen if the wrong people are in the meeting, or if not everyone is fully engaged, giving everything they have for the time at hand.  

And think about how expensive each meeting is.  If you add up the hourly rate of those participating in the meeting, you will want to make sure that there is magic for those dollars.

If everyone participates effectively, you will see the following:

  • Overall engagement of team members goes up.
  • Team members fight for each other.
  • Meeting time is used most beneficially.
  • The members are taking steps towards becoming a high-performing team.

The good news is that any team member can be trained to participate in a meeting effectively.

Use the following principles as a guide. Teach them to:

1. Be Prepared.

Encourage your team to read the agenda as soon as it comes out.  Help them to remember that the earlier the agenda arrives, the more pre-work they need to complete.

If they don’t understand an agenda item, encourage them to discuss the meaning of that item with the presenter or someone else who understands that section.

Ask them to determine where they will be counted on to give the best input.  If they don’t see it in the agenda, this is a great time to ask the presenter where it is. The last thing your team members need is to be sitting in a meeting where they don’t need to be.

Also encourage them to have questions for each of the agenda items.  If they have pertinent questions, they will focus better during the meeting because they want to receive the answers.

Make sure they know what the desired outcome of the meeting is so they can focus on that and fully orient themselves to it.

2. Be early to the meeting.

As stated earlier, meetings are an expensive process.  As such, it is important that they start on time and end on time.  I am a big believer in running 50min meetings instead of hour-long meetings.  The shorter time brings focus, and if your team members have back-to-back meetings, it gives them a chance to get to the next meeting early, which helps the presenter feel respected and valued.

3. Listen to understand, not necessarily to reply.

Encourage your team to listen to understand the presenter’s perspective.  They will be of tremendous value to the presenter if they show that they see the presenter’s perspective before they reply or ask questions.

Listening to understand also increases engagement.

4. Contribute Meaningfully.

Share with your team the fact that if they are asked to be in a meeting, it is because their contribution is valued.

As such, they should be making a contribution in each meeting they are a part of.  

As you know from my last post on leading effective meetings, I am not big on having informational meetings.  I believe meetings need to be about decisions.  So find a way to ask a question, make a comment, lend an insight, or be sincerely supportive in a way that helps make effective decisions.  

Also encourage your team not to forget to keep the goal of the meeting in mind when they contribute. Derailing a meeting by introducing side issues has a ripple effect that will be costly.  

Finally, encourage the extroverts on your team to resist their natural inclinations to interrupt (see point 3 above).

5. Choose Their Timing.

If you want each team member’s ingenuity, encourage them to speak before you do. Like it or not, they may be waiting to hear what you or someone higher up the chain of authority has to say about a presentation. But it you let them know that you value their perspective, it can make a positive difference in the decisions that come from meetings, even if not everyone’s perspective is used in this particular meeting.  

They do need to choose their timing, so ask them to be considerate. If one of their peers is more of an expert in the area, they need to defer to that member.  It will help them to grow to listen to what the expert has to say.

6. Fight for What is Essential.

Encourage them to be careful when they correct someone.  Others in the room may feel like the person doing the correcting does not have that person’s back, which can ultimately lead to others pulling away from them.

If what needs to be corrected is essential, then encourage team members to correct it in a way that shows they value the presenter.  One way to do this would be to ask a question instead of flatly stating that someone is wrong.  So instead of saying, “We don’t have time to complete this project by your deadline,” ask “What needs to happen for us to meet this project deadline? And then they can follow up with, “How much time do you believe each of those parts will take?”

7. Not Dominate. 

The name of the game in meetings is to get the magic going.  Magic comes best when multiple people are contributing towards a decision that needs to be made.  Therefore, encourage your team not to dominate the discussion.  Instead, they should make a point, then see if others add things that they had thought of with respect to that point.  If not, then the person can come back and add what they had thought of initially.  The more people that are engaged and contributing, the more likely magic will happen.

8. Speak up if there are any future topics that you want discussed.

Since you’ve encouraged your team to stay focused on the desired outcome, there may be other topics that need to be discussed.  Encourage them to speak up and get those topics on the calendar.

9. Read the minutes as soon as they are published.

If minutes were taken during the meeting, encourage the team to read them as soon as possible, while their memories are still fresh, and submit any significant differences.  That way the record can be amended before other people read the minutes with the error in them.

10. Complete the work assigned to them as soon as possible after the meeting.

It is really impressive when someone bangs out their assigned work quickly after meetings.  Encourage your team to block off time after the meeting to do just that.  If the work can’t be fully completed in the allotted time, then even an outline detailing how the work will be completed and when meaningful segments will be completed, would do a lot to assure the team that the member has it under control.

The more your team is trained to participate in a meeting, the more you and your team will realize true value from them.

Chew On This:

  • What will you do to train your team to participate in meetings effectively?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

How To Help Your Team Reach Their Potential

potential A business leader who was running a very successful organization spoke to me about one of her direct reports. “He has to learn to adapt to those who report to him, not the other way around,” she said.  

I started thinking of how true that is.  For leaders to succeed, they need to draw out the best in those that follow them.  Since their followers have different personality types, a one-size-fits-all approach will leave some on the team less engaged.

What if the leader really understood those who follow him? What if he learned how his team was wired?  Then, the leader could tap into the strengths of his team and, as a byproduct, benefit from their ingenuity, engagement, and support.

So, how do you become a flexible leader?

  • Understand how each member of the team is wired.

There are objective and subjective ways to understand how each team member is wired.  Objective assessments such as Myers-Briggs, Birkman, and DiSC can give you many clues.  When the team members digest the results of the assessment, be sure to ask them what parts really fit and what parts did not fit as well.  

Make note of those.

Subjectively, you can observe when they come alive more.  You can also be alert to what others on the team say they do better than average.  Ask them about their dreams and goals, even if they are not work-related You will gain lots of insight into what makes them tick.  

  • Understand what their strengths are.

Very often with the objective assessments, the strengths are pegged in the results report.  

However, dig in deeper with them.  Ask them under what circumstances they come alive, and what it is about those times that causes them to feel more alive.  

You can also ask them and those on their team what they do better than average.  

Just go for the top three strengths.

  • Provide them with opportunities where their strengths shine.

Once you know their strengths, think about how you can encourage those strengths to be displayed more.  It might be that someone on the team does the majority of the presenting to clients.  However, it could also be that after you brainstorm with them, you discover how to leverage their strengths across their role.  

For example, I love getting to the heart of things and then developing actionable plans around those things.  As I do this with clients, or talk about my services to potential clients, I am more in my groove. 

When I try to get practical without getting to the essence first, I am not as strong in what I do.  I greatly admire people who are quick with the “right” steps, but that is not me.  I need a little more time so we can get to the essence of the matter, then plans seem to flow much more easily.

Take one of your direct reports.  What is their top strength and how can they leverage it more?

  • Encourage them to find ways to contain their weaknesses.

Time can be greatly wasted when someone focuses on overcoming their weaknesses instead of strengthening their strengths.  I am not saying that weaknesses should not be worked on, but I am saying that their time might be better spent on learning to contain those weaknesses.  

For example, I can be impulsive.  I can tell you a bunch of now-humorous stories from my past to illustrate how my impulsiveness did not gain me the results I desired.  Today, even though I run my own company, I don’t let major decisions be made without a “committee” of different personality types giving feedback on that decision.  Just recently we made it a policy that I will discuss major decisions with the team and solicit their input.  In addition, I will solicit help from those whom I believe would have good insights into the decision.

This has done wonders for my business life.

  • Enjoy the fact that they will do things in a style that is different from yours.

Very often when we see one of our direct reports doing something in a different style, we get a sense of foreboding that “it is not going to go well."  This fuels a sense of insecurity which, in turn, may prompt us to try to make them do things in the style we would do them in.  

If this is our response, we are missing out on the ingenuity of those who are different from us.  The other option is to learn from them.  Perhaps we may grow even more by adapting some of what they do to our style.

Before the sense of foreboding takes over, turn on your curiosity and ask yourself, “What if their style can work really well for them?” 

If you are still feeling insecure, then ask more questions before making any corrections.  See if they have answers for some of the fears you may have.

Adapting your style to your team will help you to reach and pull out the potential that is inside of them.  

In appreciation, those who follow you will increase their engagement and will want to support you even more.

Chew On This:

  • How are the members of your team different? How can you meet them where they are at?

Ryan Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.