How to Make a Great First Impression as a New Manager or Leader
Ask a resilience and workplace well-being expert, Jenn DeWall Burnout & Resilience Speaker
How to Make a Great First Impression as a New Leader or Manager
What every new manager needs to do in their first week on the job.
Before you even speak your first words as a manager, people are making first impressions about you. They are thinking about whether or not you’re qualified for the job, whether they will like working with you, and even how successful you’ll be at leading the team. According to Princeton researchers, people decide your trustworthiness in a tenth of a second. A TENTH OF A SECOND. This means that all of the actions you take or do not take during your first week on the job can have long-term consequences that will ultimately determine your success as a leader. Here are five tips to make a great first impression as a new leader or manager.
1. Introduce yourself to your team, department, and other key colleagues. If possible, make a face-to-face introduction, video introduction, or phone introduction. Avoid “getting to know” people via email as your true personality may not come through. Building human-centered connections is one of the most important skills of a leader, and the way you introduce yourself will set the stage for the type of relationship or connection you are building. Do not assume that people will feel comfortable introducing themselves to you first, especially if you are in a higher-level position than they are.
2. Be an Observer First. You were likely hired because the employer found value in you that could aid in the role. However, your first week is not the time that you need to show everyone how great, smart, or successful you are. Your first week, and arguably weeks after, are a time for you to learn about the organization and how it operates which means withholding judgment and opinions until you have a full understanding of the big picture. If you speak too soon, you risk offending people which can create an instant divide in the relationship. Bonus if you ask to job shadow your team members, this will show that you want to learn and understand their role to be most effective.
3. Identify the key tasks, processes, and responsibilities that you need training on. There is nothing worse for employees than reporting to a boss that has no idea what they do. When you don’t understand what your direct reports doing, you will have leadership blind spots, meaning you are unable to see the full picture. For example, if a particular process takes 30 hours but you assume it’s less because you have never done it, you might delegate projects or assign more work than can reasonably be expected. Whether you’re going to be performing the job or not, it is important you understand what it is that your team is supposed to do.
4. Set up one-on-one meetings with direct reports. Utilize these one-on-one meetings as an opportunity to get to know them and for them to get to know you. Ask questions like, “How do you like to be recognized?” or “How do you like to receive feedback?” Try to avoid getting into any personal issues as do not yet have a strong foundation of trust. If possible, avoid using this time to “push” all of your rules and expectations at them. Listen first, then develop a plan of action for follow-up meetings.
5. Create a fresh perspective list. Show your team you value their voice by creating a fresh perspective list. The fresh perspective list is simple. It is a list of all of the ideas that people have for how the team could change for the better. Doing this transforms the conversation from airing grievances to thinking about how you and the team can work together to make work better for everyone. The fresh perspective list could cover ideas for updating processes or procedures, a change to a product, or a new idea. Bonus, this also helps give you insight into the struggles and desires of your team. Use this fresh perspective list as a starting point to creating team norms and adding structure.
Jenn DeWall is a Resilience and Burnout keynote speaker, facilitator, and podcast host. Jenn is a mental health and workplace well-being expert based in Denver, CO. Jenn is passionate about helping leaders learn how to build confidence and show up authentically to build human-centered cultures.