How To Build Trust With A New Team

How To Build Trust With A New Team

I’ve lost count of how many times over the course of my career I’ve taken over a new team as a manager. But I’ve never forgotten what a daunting experience those first few days and weeks are. How do you set your expectations as a new manager? Do you need to make some sort of “new manager speech”? What should the agenda for your first meeting be? How do you build trust with a new team?

First impressions are often lasting. Most people will judge you within the first few seconds of meeting you and their opinion will probably never change. Making a good first impression is incredibly important because you only get one shot at it. No pressure then!

I certainly felt that pressure during my first few days as a part-time CEO at Whitebox, a company specialising in van racking and accessories for the trades. Whitebox is a small, informal company with a ‘family feel.’ Like most small businesses, it’s grown organically and its systems and processes have developed and evolved on the fly.

I come from a strong corporate background so a clash of cultures was a realistic possibility. I thought long and hard about how best to approach those first few days and weeks.

Whenever I’ve taken over a brand-new team, what’s worked best for me is focusing on building trust. I resist the urge to chart a vision or make changes of substance. Some teams will be mourning the loss of their previous manager and need some time to come to terms with what can feel a major change.

That’s why, when I go into a new team, I try really hard to respect these feelings – while still looking to the future.

In the early days, my goal isn’t to map out the vision for the next nine months, to criticise what’s gone before or to declare my mandate for change. My aims are to establish trust and to set the tone for the kind of team environment I want to foster.

Specifically, my aims as a new leader are to show:

  • I’m worthy of my team’s trust;

  • I’m humble and ready to learn;

  • I want to help.

This may feel like a passive approach to a new leadership role. It is, and it requires a lot of patience and discipline.

But the fact is as a new manager, your team will quite rightly be skeptical of you. So, as tempting as it might be to come into a new team situation all guns blazing, projecting confidence, certainty and a sense of direction, this will only be seen positively by your team if they trust you.

Without trust, your confidence will come over as arrogant, your certainty will seem unaware and your sense of direction will appear misguided. Nothing moves forward without trust.

This is why, in my first week as the part-time CEO of Whitebox, the founder and I took the team out to lunch at The Perch On Lancing Beach, a relaxed café/ restaurant overlooking the sea to provide an informal environment to get to know one another better, and for the team to ask any questions they had.

Hopefully, we all came away from that meeting feeling we knew each other a little better and having built those first vestiges of trust.

Question: What was your first experience like as a new manager? How did you build trust with your team? I love hearing from you so please do take a moment to tell me in the comments box below.

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Scale UpDenyse Whillier