Sometimes that moment where you critically reexamine your life choices happens when you least expect it—like when you just spent 90 seconds trying to find the end of a roll of clear packing tape, finally managing to claw up the edge, and then successfully peeling off an entirely useless half-inch strip that means you have to start over again. And you think to yourself, “Why in the world didn’t I buy more of the good stuff?”
Whether you’re a first-time manager or are taking over a new team, here’s how to approach that first meeting with your team.
It happened: You’re a new manager now.
Perhaps, it’s the first time you’re leading a team. Or you’re taking over a new team as a manager. Either way, that first meeting as a new manager is a daunting event. What should the agenda for that first meeting with the new team be? How should you set expectations as a new manager? Should you make prepare some sort of “new manager introduction speech”?
First impressions are often lasting ones. And there’s no better time and place to solidify that impression than the first meeting with your entire team.
Whether you’re taking over a brand new team, or you’re a first-time manager, here’s how to approach that first meeting. I’ll walk through what you should be thinking about, some things you can say, and some questions you can ask…
Build trust, don’t chart a vision (yet).
The goal of this initial meeting with your new team is NOT to map out the vision for the next nine months or declare your mandate for change. You’ll have the space (and greater knowledge) to do both in the coming weeks. This first meeting is to establish trust and set the tone for the kind of team environment you wish to foster.
Specifically, as a new leader, you’ll want to internalize these goals for your first meeting:
Show you’re worthy of your team’s trust.
Show that you’re humble and ready to learn.
Show that you’re intention is that you want to help.
This may feel like a passive approach to your new leadership role at first. But keep in mind this one truth: You’re new. And your team will be skeptical of you (rightfully so). So, as tempting as it might be to come into a new team situation and project confidence, certainty, and a sense of direction — know that it will only be seen positively by your team if they trust you. Without trust, your confidence will seem arrogant, your certainty will seem oblivious, and your sense of direction will seem misguided. Nothing moves forward without trust.
How can you build trust within this first meeting? Read on…
Get to know your team members — and take notes.
This may be one of the most over-looked aspects for new managers: Getting to know their team members, personally. Icebreakers can feel forced and trite — but I encourage you to spend some time in your first meeting asking at least a few get-to-know-you-questions to the group. (Here are the 25 best icebreaker questions we’ve found to work well, based on four years of data.) Take notes. Think about how you can incorporate their answers in future interactions, events, etc. For example, someone’s favorite food is ice cream? Consider bringing in ice cream to celebrate their birthday or work anniversary.
Share who you are, more than surface-level stuff.
This isn’t about touting your accomplishments and expertise (though, of course, you can share those things in this first meeting if it feels right). Rather, when introducing yourself to the team, it’s a chance to expose who you really are — what motivates you, inspires you, and brings you fulfillment. The more your team knows of the real you, the more likely they are to trust you.
How to do this? Share your leadership philosophy: What do you see as the purpose of a manager? What do you value? Who do you look up to? What drew you to the organization? Share your intentions: That you are here to help, to help them do the best work of their careers, to get out of their way and support them to accomplish something greater. Share your personal interests: What do you like doing in your free time? What social causes or nonprofits do you support? Be mindful to make sure you don’t spend more than 25% of the meeting, tops, talking about yourself. In building trust, the last thing you want to do is come across as self-absorbed.
Make it clear that you’re in “learning mode.”
If you want to build trust as a leader, you have to be vulnerable. You should let your team know that you don’t have all the answers and you have much to learn. This is one of the hardest parts of being a leader. As leaders, it feels like we’re supposed to have all the answers. Admitting that we don’t can feel like a blow to our sense of self. Yet exposing this vulnerability helps build trust in a team — it shows you’re humble, fallible, and human like the rest of us.
To do this, try saying something like this: “I am the new person here, and so all of you in this room know more than me. You carry with you insights and experiences that I don’t have. I am sponge, and I am to learn from all of you.” No need to beat yourself up and say that you’re ignorant, by any means. Essentially, you are saying that you’re “in learning mode” as a new leader. A learning mindset is one of the greatest ways to show vulnerability, and build trust with your team.
Ask 2–4 probing, thoughtful questions.
The majority of your first meeting as a new manager should be spent asking a few key questions to your team as a group. I’d also strongly recommend setting up separate one-on-one time with each individual employee before or after the first team meeting to further learn what’s on their mind (whichever is most appropriate).
Here are some ideas for questions you can ask…
What do you want to change in this team?
What do you not want to change in this team?
What’s typically been taboo to talk about in the past? What have you been nervous to bring up?
What looming concerns or apprehension might you have?
What’s been the most frustrating thing to have encountered with the team lately?
Where do you see the biggest opportunity for improvement with the team?
How do you prefer to receive feedback? (Verbal, written, in-person)? How do you prefer to give feedback? (Verbal, written, in-person)?
What’s been the most motivating project you’ve worked on all year? With whom? And why?
What excites and energizes you about the company?
What are you most grateful for in being a part of this company?
What do you think has been a big obstacle to progress?
What do you wish was communicated to you more often?
When have you felt micromanaged? When have you felt like you’ve needed more support?
Who’s the best boss you’ve ever had and why? The worst boss you’ve ever had and why?
What was the best team experience for you? The worst team experience?
How do you like to be shown gratitude?
How often would you like to set up a standing one-on-one or check- in meeting? Every week? Biweekly? Once a month? Once a quarter?
If this list of questions overwhelms you, remember, you only need to pick two to four of these questions for the all-team meeting. Save the rest for your one-on-one followup conversations.
As you listen to the answers, there are a few things to pay particularly close attention to:
Listen for the things you can fix, solve, and knock out quickly. Is there a project that is deadweight? Is there a useless policy that’s slowing people down? The best way to build trust with your new team and show that you’re here to help is to actually help.
Listen for what people view as “success” and progress, and consider how you’re going to define and measure that. As a leader, one of your primary jobs will be to say what “success” is, and how well the team is doing to get there.
Listen for what people’s communication needs are. What do they feel “in the dark” about? How might people prefer you sharing what’s going on? How regularly will you need to set up touch points with team members?
Be proactive in your next steps
As you wrap up your meeting, one of the worst things you can say as a new manager is this: “Feel free to stop by my office if you need anything.” Don’t say that. Why? You’re implying that if they have questions or concerns, they have to come to you. The burden is on them, not you. Instead, try saying: “In the next __ days, I’ll be setting up a time to meet with each of you. From there, based on your preferences, we can set a standing one-on-one time. In the meantime, if you want to meet anytime sooner, grab me in the hall, send me an email — I’d love to sit down sooner.” There’s a huge difference between the two statements. One is reactive and sounds lazy (the former), while the other sounds proactive and that you want to help (the latter). A strong way to end your first meeting is to show that you’re willing to come to them — that you won’t be waiting for them to bring up issues. You want to show as much proactiveness as possible.
Be prepared for tough questions
Note that you may get asked questions during your meeting such as, “What do you think you’ll change?” and “What do you see as the vision for the team?” Some might be tough to answer, especially with you being new. Be prepared to answer them honestly — and with a good dose of humility. There is much for your to learn. This is only Day 1, and the more you can level with your team that you’re here to learn from them about what the direction or what those changes should be, the better. You’re here to listen and to serve.
This is by no means comprehensive. Every team is different — from who managed the team before you, to the interpersonal dynamics at play, to the challenges that they’re facing with their work. You’ll likely need to tweak some of the question suggestions I offered, or some of the phrases I recommended. Regardless, I hope at the very least these tips give you a framework to start planning your first meeting as a new manager, and kick things off on the right foot.
Whew. Thanks for reading this far. As we all know, being a new manager is no easy task. To learn from and get the support of others who’ve been in your shoes, I’d love to have you check out The Watercooler, our online leadership community. You can apply here.
P.S.: Please feel free to share + give this piece 👏 so others can find it too. Thanks 😄 (And you can always say hi at @cjlew23.)
In this Cool Tools video review we’re going to take a look at a new pair of classic kitchen shears. These are made by Wiss, they’re Italian made and run about $30. And by using the link in the description to pick them up on Amazon you help support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.
These are all-metal, multi-purpose kitchen scissors. I remember growing up with a pair like these in our kitchen. They’ve got a serious heft to them. This particular design has been made under the Wiss brand since the 1930s. And part of the appeal has always been the extra features they crammed in. This section here works as a bottle opener. Above that you have this nubby section meant for twisting off small lids. It can also work as a nut cracker or crab cracker. There’s a flat section on the handle that can be used as a small hammer. And this little protrusion on the top is supposedly used for unsealing ball jars, or generally unsealing lids that are vacuumed tight. Also, unlike the ones I grew up with, these include a deep notch on the blade that’s perfect for cutting rope, or bundles of stems, without them slipping down the blade. And because there’s a removable screw here, there’s no reason you can’t take these apart to wash them if you use them on food or something messy. It also means you can tension them up easily if they get loose.
Now, the downside for these from my time with them is that the extra weight compared the other scissors in my house makes me a little nervous about dropping them. If these drop on your hardwood wood floor or your foot — you’re going to be crying.
Also, the paint on the handle started to chip after just lightweight use. I see 50 year old versions of these on eBay where the paint has held on — so chalk that up to they just don’t make them like they used to. If you can find an old pair and restore them, that might be the best way to go. But even then, an all-metal handle isn’t super comfortable no matter what the paint looks like.
Dear DevOps professional: Do you have a Hard Knock Life? I’ll admit, it’s pretty easy to get self-absorbed in our own 99 Problems and not appreciate how far we’ve come as an industry. For instance:
Culture within Development and Operations organizations is shifting away from centralized command and control to embrace distributed empowerment of teams and individuals.
Automation is being embraced as a key mechanism to maintain guardrails while scaling the organization and product investments.
Lean principles are helping engineering teams focus on value from an outside-in (customer-centric) perspective, instead of a technology-centric worldview.
Measurement is driving more informed decision-making by forcing more rigor in modeling what improvement should look like.
Sharing information and experiences is easier than ever before, ensuring transparency and load-balancing instead of having tribal knowledge reside with a few people.
Even if you’re not quite there yet within your IT Operations / Engineering bubble, I implore you: Brush that Dirt Off Your Shoulder and realize those DevOps principles (the CALMS of DevOps) that you’ve worked so hard to implement can help in other parts of your company, too. Let’s look at your Marketing organization as an example.
Give It 2 Me
Marketing tech (or MarTech) has come a long way to help marketers improve engagement with customers. Traditionally, especially for core systems like a CRM, IT would be called in to build, deploy, and operate a solution custom-tailored to particular (and ever-changing) business needs. But let’s be honest, marketers: IT doesn’t understand your domain at all. You want to change the keywords in a particular ad campaign? Or ensure prospects aren’t being bombarded with too many drip emails? File a ticket. Oh, it’s time-sensitive? File a P1 ticket—the one with the two-week SLA.
Today, digital businesses promote agility by empowering teams on the front lines (aka the marketing team) to make informed decisions quickly and giving them simple, customizable tools to put them into action. For SaaS companies, the first step is often the marketing website, which frequently runs on shared infrastructure and customized by a shared development team. Now, there is a trend toward forming Marketing Ops teams, who have full-stack ownership and align to the goals of the broader marketing organization by leveraging the organization’s domain expertise and applying technology appropriately.
If you’re in an IT Operations org supporting Marketing today, work on simplifying and training your counterparts within Marketing to actively build that culture of empowerment, and ultimately Give It 2 Them (by that, I mean giving them ownership of the website entirely).
Can’t Knock the Hustle
As a software-developer-turned-product-manager, it’s pretty interesting to see what lengths people will go to in order to solve their problems: They copy, paste, query, refresh, communicate, and schedule—all manual activities that take up quite a bit of time. In applying a technology mindset to the Marketing domain, the most obvious way to drive efficiency is by introducing some semblance of automation.
Automation lowers the barrier to entry for a particular process and makes it more predictable and less error-prone. Even simple changes, like setting up threshold alerts for social media activity instead of constantly refreshing Twitter or LinkedIn, can save a ton of time. This type of model change (push vs. pull) is a solved problem in IT Operations: Every infrastructure or application monitoring tool has had that capability for decades. Applying the same principles to digital signals might be newer to MarTech, but the approach can certainly be re-used with success.
Everyone can benefit from automation, not just those in an ITOps discipline. Just think: Wouldn’t it be great if you could send social media activity alerts as digital signals to PagerDuty so your team can coordinate real-time responses and correlate signals across tools? And if the threshold was a bit too sensitive, you could discuss that as a team in a postmortem and maybe record a note using a runbook in case it triggers again for the next person on-call.
In Lean parlance, this type of automation helps to “eliminate waste” from a process. Another key principle of Lean centers on delivering value to the customer by specifically mapping out the parts of the process to that value stream. For example, if you discover that sending an email out to sales reps about the leads collected at a conference doesn’t provide value (since the reps look in Salesforce anyway), don’t automate the email! Remove that step from the process entirely. Hustle is always appreciated, but it’s only useful when it results in value.
‘Empir-ical’ State of Mind
One of the nice side benefits of introducing automation is that it forces you to sit down and understand the overall process, no matter what that process is. But let’s step back a bit and ask: What does success really look like? If the process is faster, how much faster is it? Do you have a goal in mind?
I’ve loved watching ITOps trend toward being more intentional about what you’re measuring and how that reflects in alert design (I mean, there’s an entire conference dedicated to it: Monitorama). Measurement of the various metrics within the Marketing domain—including the number of qualified leads, click rates, ad campaign spend, etc.—is really only the first step, but it’s a critical one to understanding whether something you’re trying to improve is actually improving.
Another important aspect of measurement is that it forces you to prioritize which metrics really matter. For years, ITOps professionals have focused on system metrics like CPU, disk utilization, network throughput, cache size, etc. Those metrics can be helpful, but they don’t really represent the customer experience or the health of the business. Is there an equivalent upleveling that needs to happen with Marketing metrics? Perhaps. But the Marketing domain benefits from being far closer to the business than abstract applications or infrastructure. Regardless, being data-driven is a core tenet of DevOps that applies just as well to Marketing—basically, if it moves, graph it.
H to the Izz-O
Holding on to information that might be beneficial to a colleague is not typically done overtly. Sharing is a core principle of DevOps because it’s an intentional act done for the benefit of the team. Chat tools like Slack, Stride, and Microsoft Teams have made it simple to have a conversation in the open and connect people across geographies and timezones. The key to using them optimally isn’t in point-to-point (person-to-person) communication. It’s easy to forget that chat rooms have been a familiar tool in the toolbox for ITOps professionals for a long time, hearkening back to the days of Internet Relay Chat (IRC). For marketers (and other business disciplines), moving past the private 1:1 conversations is one cultural step toward better sharing.
Lest I lead you to believe that sharing is only tied to chat, there are many other ways that a “sharing culture” must emerge. To help your Marketing team become more effective and efficient, you can leverage the tools you already have (e.g., a company wiki, a Slack channel, PagerDuty, etc.) to become information radiators. You can also:
Establish common processes for activities such as onboarding or new-hire training.
Circulate best practices using methods like lunch-and-learns.
Spread key learnings from a customer call via a retrospective / postmortem.
Ensure common ground in conversations by providing links that everyone can access.
As you can see, you don’t have to be a Renegade with DevOps to uncover ample opportunities for bringing the same helpful principles outside the bounds of your comfortable IT Operations / Engineering organization.
However, before you go ply your newfound powers of DevOps good within your Marketing group, be aware that marketers have been coming at this from the opposite direction, too. Stay tuned for the inside scoop from that perspective coming soon! (Though, I’d bet there will be far fewer Jay-Z references—in case you were keeping count at home, there are at least eight great songs in here that you should go listen to.)
It’s the biggest Trump con since he told Americans the tax cut would help them more than the rich. He’s calling for a $1.5 trillion boost in infrastructure spending – but he’s proposing just $200 billion in federal funding.
So where does the rest come from? Tax hikes on the middle-class and poor, and from private investors.
1. State and local governments, already starved for cash, would have to raise taxes.
2. Private investors, for their part, won’t pitch in unless they’re guaranteed a good return on their investment, most likely in the form of tolls and other user fees. Or worse, governments might be forced to transfer ownership of roads and bridges to private corporations.
So the public will end up paying twice: in higher taxes and higher tolls, and won’t even get what’s needed.
3. Projects that will be most attractive to big investors are where tolls and fees will bring in the biggest bucks: Brand new highways and bridges rather than the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair.
4. Trump’s infrastructure plan only worsens the racial justice divide in America, by leaving disadvantaged communities behind while giving massive profits to the rich and corporations through new tolls and fees.
5. It’s a double con because now that Trump and the Republicans have enacted a huge tax cut for corporations and the rich, there’s no money left for infrastructure. The White House says the $200 billion of federal spending will be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, but doesn’t explain how or where. Given what we know of Trump’s and the GOP’s priorities, that means taking money from programs that protect vulnerable Americans, not from the billions in wasted on military spending.
A real infrastructure program – as opposed to Trump’s fake program – would focus on repairing existing infrastructure, doing so based on need rather than financial returns, prioritizing public transportation over private, and clean water and renewable energy over projects that generate more pollution.
And it would be paid for by closing tax loopholes used by big corporations and the rich, not by imposing higher taxes, Trump tolls and user fees on the rest of us.
To really make America great again we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public – not for big developers and investors.