Are you the new leader on the block? You probably know that you have to prove yourself before the other members of the leadership team will accept you.
The first few weeks or even months in your new role is a good time to scope out the connections and relationship intricacies on the leadership team. It’s also during this time that you want to establish credibility and gain the respect of your colleagues.
There is no one right way to approach this task, but there are some guidelines that will always be true. Here are 10 reliable ways to prove yourself and gain respect from your colleagues.
1. Treat Them With Respect First
This is just good sportsmanship. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt out of the gate. They will have plenty of time to show you who they really are. In the meantime, be gracious, don’t entertain gossip and use common courtesy.
2. Respect Their Expertise
They are (probably) in their positions because they have experience or expertise in their field. If you need guidance on something in their sphere of influence, assume the best of them, and give them credit by asking for their advice or their expertise to help with opportunities in your area.
3. Be Supportive of Their Ideas
If they share an idea with you, they might be gauging your reaction. Be honest, but if at all possible, be supportive. If you cannot be, at least do not be a detractor.
If you can be supportive, be supportive in tangible ways. Can you make an introduction for them? Can you lend them any of your own expertise? Can you help them with advice or resources? Being benevolent shows your character.
4. Be Willing to Listen
As someone from the outside, you will be a fresh set of ears to the leadership team. Let your colleagues know that you are there for them to bounce ideas off of or just to listen. They can gain perspective on themselves and their situations by hearing it out loud. Be sure to hold these conversations in confidence unless they say otherwise.
5. Offer to Give Them Feedback
A lot is said about asking for and acting on feedback, which is part of emotional intelligence. It helps people understand how others see them and whether that perspective conflicts with how they see themselves. If a member of the leadership team is in that mind frame, it can help to give them constructive feedback. The aim is always to make them better. You will need to gain their trust before they are willing to share any internal doubts with you, but offering can help you gain their respect.
6. Think With Systems Thinking
Before you make any major changes in your area, ask yourself (and other department heads) whether any of them will negatively impact other departments. This strategy will help you avoid making an unnecessary faux pas, and exploring these possibilities beforehand will help gain the respect of the other department heads.
7. Show Your Expertise
Do your homework and be competent. Know and demonstrate what you are good at — but with humility. Be ready with the correct data, including the expected return on investment (ROI) for what you need or want for your department. Allow your colleagues to see, and thus respect, your business acumen.
8. Grow Your Team Without Doing It at the Expense of Other Departments
Make sure you get to know your team members and provide them as many opportunities to learn, grow and lead as possible. While doing so, however, don’t hog all the resources for your own team. Generosity, when possible, is always a good move.
9. Ask Your Colleagues for Feedback
Part of having self-confidence is being able to ask for feedback. Asking for feedback won’t always entail following it, but some of your new colleagues have been around that same block a few times. They may have some insight that can help you avoid a blind spot or a particularly nasty pothole.
At the beginning, gathering information will give you insight into yourself, your role, the organization and the person providing the feedback. Once you’ve gotten to know them better, you’ll know which team members you want to ask for feedback.
10. Know How to Manage Up
Know what it takes to manage up and gain the support of your vice president or CEO. This process can include:
- Willingness to support other colleagues on assignments.
- Following through on commitments.
- Sharing information (and knowing when to handle things on your own).
- Coming to meetings on time, prepared and with answers rather than complaints.
- Seeing the organization from the perspective of the CEO rather than simply from your own level.
- Understanding what the C-suite needs from you on any given subject (and if you don’t know, ask).
- Knowing how and when to communicate to them, understanding how they lead, and knowing when to stand your ground and stick up for yourself.
When you know how to manage up, your colleagues will respect your understanding of your place in the organization and may even come to you for advice.
This list of tips is not exhaustive; however, if you are new to a leadership team, it will help you gain the respect of your colleagues while navigating that (potentially) rough few months until you are on solid ground.