One of the most important things you need to do as a new boss is quickly get to know the people who are going to be reporting to you. Besides the fact that they are very anxious to form a connection, you need to evaluate them in a timely manner. Plus, they’re a source of critical background information about your department or company. This is the way you discover the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When you meet with your new reports, you’ll want to offer them a hint of the direction you plan to take things in. You don’t want to say too much because you haven’t had a chance to do all your homework yet, but you can share some general thinking. Maybe you want to make social media a much bigger factor in the business or increase interaction with customers. Go ahead and let your staff know that. People start sweating when a new boss arrives, and if they’re left in the dark too long, they tend to start grumbling and saying things like, “We have no clue what she’s doing in there.” And you don’t want that.
But though you should share a hint of your direction with your new staffers, you’ll also want to use meetings to listen as much as possible. As I said, this is the time to collect information and you don’t do that by flapping your lips. Listening at length and asking the right questions will allow you to collect not just hard data, but soft data, too—for instance, the politics behind how thing are done and what factors—and people—may be hampering progress. One nice strategy is to ask certain new reports of yours to offer you a critique about the business, what they’d do differently if they could.
All of this getting to know your staff will involve a certain amount of meetings. It can’t happen any other way. But here’s one meeting I’d advise you NOT to have, and that’s the group meeting. Avoid it with your life and arrange one-on-one meetings instead.
I’m sure there are people who don’t agree with me on this, but in my view group meetings can be very awkward when you take over a team. That kind of awkwardness can leech your confidence and throw you off your game. And trust me, no one is going to feel comfortable volunteering critical information in an early group get together.
This is not to say you shouldn’t meet as a group down the road. I loved meeting regularly with my senior team when I ran Cosmo. But in the beginning, try the one-on-one. You’ll feel more comfortable and it will be easier to establish rapport with people and engender their loyalty.
Each direct report will feel that he or she got the kind of quality time no one else did.