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Julie Ross

We have all been there. Great article. Remember, even though you are hired, you are still working through the interview process. Consider producing a video resume to introduce yourself to the new staff. Email the file the first day. You can create it yourself or hire a firm to build a video resume. These guys are about to launch and have great case studies on the subject matter.

David Lowe

Another helpful reference could be:

Check out the podcasts and listen for more ways to be a more effective manager. Mark and Mike at Manager Tools are doing their best to help all managers, new and seasoned.

John Rusk

I was in a similar situation some years ago. If there was one thing that I know now, and wish I knew then, it would be the concept of authentic leadership (as in the book Why Should Anyone Be Led by You).

I believe it would help not just with answering the original questions that began this discussion, but also with deciding how best to apply the many pieces of advice that have been offered in response.


Hi Professor Sutton and fellow fortuitous ex-student of his!

I think there is a lot of good stuff posted on here, some of it sorta high-level, some of it very detailed. The way I would structure the holistic problem in your mind is as follows:

1) Develop a strategy - you're now the commander of a bunch of soldiers. They know how to use their weapons. No need to micromanage them there. But what they need is to be told what hill to take. Nobody else but the manager of a team defines the strategy of the team. What are your short-term and long-term goals? How does that map to other teams? To corporate objectives? To the individual career goals of the folks on the team? You must always be on top of ensuring this constant alignment of everyone's interests as the environment changes.

2) Develop a behavioral philosophy - how will your team execute the strategy? It sounds sorta foofy, but its very similar to what's happening right now within the US intelligence community. The ends don't always justify the means - so you need to decide, in collaboration with your team, what "means" you consider appropriate and inappropriate. Will your team go around criticizing other teams? Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't. How often will you communicate with each other and other teams? How do you want your team to be perceived?

Those 2 things are pretty much the only things that really define the core of a manager. Everything else tends to either be the kindergarten stuff (be friendly, be respectful, be sensitive, don't be an asshole!) or the extra credit stuff (be charismatic, be well-liked by nearly everyone, drive some kind of significant change).

Best of luck - I'm sure you will do fantastic!

Wally Bock

All great advice. Let me add two questions that I always ask on new engagements and suggest that my coaching clients ask.

What do you hope I do?

What are you terrified that I might do?

Works for me.

Cherie Teasdale

I didn't see another place to send you a comment not intended for publishing on your blog - so here she is anyhow!:

Thank you very much for your work... Thank you so very much for posting my comment!

All the best,

Cherie Teasdale

#1: ASK open-ended questions and solicit recommendations, often. You set the climate of communication for your team whether you intend to or not, so do so intentionally.
#2: WRITE down the questions in advance to get an idea of what are pointed, open-ended, and inviting questions, and what kind of scenarios you may use different styles of questions. You may not ask the questions exactly as you record them, but writing them down will help prepare your mind and approach for the real-world application.
#3: MODEL the behavior you desire from others. Do not assume that because your team members have more experience than you that they know how to effectively communicate and collaborate. It is up to you to set the climate for your team.

#4: KNOW that you are the leader, the mentor, the cheerleader, and that leaders are called to serve. Relaxed confidence will help create your best decision making and eliminate unproductive stress that puts strain on projects and teams.

William Glasser’s works (among many others):
-Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom
-The Control (Choice) Theory Manager
“Dr. Glasser offers an alternative to boss-management. He emphasizes the need for lead-management and the important results of this – satisfied employees and quality work.

Ed Markey

Scroll up and read Kelley Eskridge's "Humans at Work" manifesto.

Andrew Wojecki

All great ideas and suggestions here. I've been reading the book A Class with Drucker by William Cohen. In a chapter, he writes, much along the lines of Marshall Goldsmith that the behaviors or tasks that led to your previous successes, may not necessarily lead to current successes. In the context of leading this team, I'd frame it as something to be quite excited about, rather than feeling a sense of trepidation. We give President's 100 Days to transition. We give managers and leaders even less. Focusing on being ignorant and curious, it makes you ask more questions. Best of luck.


All excellent tips on how to do the job.

Above all else be yourself it's what got you there in the first place.

Frode H

There are a lot of great comments here. I have just changed department at work, to be head of the most technical department, and I do not have close to their technical skill. The first thing I did was to talk to them, explaining why I was here, what I want to do, and what I can help them with, what can they help me with and what I expect. I am not here to be a mentor, I am here to be a motivator. But it is important to talk and listen early. Do not sit around and work at your desk. Spend the first week away from your computer if you can and just talk and listen. And when you are settled in, always spend the first 20-30 minutes among your employees. Depending on how many you boss around. Enjoy your job, and show it. Dare to be different and have fun. Good Luck.

Gerardo Amaya

I think you have to take the best out of your environment. I have been in this situation a couple of times before. Here is a bunch of advice I have used myself:

1.-If Your age is an issue for You, it will be an issue for them. People usually don't care about age as long as they see leadership and attitude. If You show your team fear, they will think that You don't deserve to be there.

2.-Don't think that because You're the boss, You can change the way they are working. The will adopt new ways to do tasks based on strategy, efficiency and leadership

3.-In a leader or manager, they need to find a facilitator, not a conflict maker. They will follow You and Work with You if You can provide them with the resources they need to make an excelent work. This also means motivation and personal growth

4.-Know them personally. Don't forget that outside the work suite, we are all human beings. This guys may have different problems than the ones You have and most of them You probably don't understand, but that does not mean you can help helpful.

5.-Make them know that You understand that this leadership relationship is bidirectional. Make them understand that You will learn a lot from them, but also they will from You

6.-Understand why they are working the way they are working. Sometimes for You it may seem as an old paradigm, but for them is the way they have learn to do things for quite some time. Tell them that they way they have been working is a good way of work and you will optimize it.

These tips are some of the most important I remember. I hope they're helpful

PaiMei Guy

Great advice so far.

I'd add the following:
First, I would recommend Michael Watkin's The First 90 days as already recommended. This helped me situate myself in the environment.

Second, I'd suggest a self-reflection of what it means to be "the boss" now. Following the No Asshole Rule is a great start, but hopefully, it'll prompt more digging and self-analysis of what that looks like with these 4.

Third, be open, accessible, transparent and communicative, but not pushy. Just as you're learning about them, they're going to be learning about you. It's like "dating". This process will take time but it needs to happen.

Last but not least, try to relax and focus on some good opportunities to build a relationship with your team while achieving business objectives.

Have fun!

HR Good_Witch

Take a deep breath and try to get past the (very natural) feeling of being an impostor that is going to be found out!

Don't try to jump in with wisdom or change how things are done (in time maybe, but not yet!)

Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT ever EVER utter, "well... where I used to work we did it this way...." (Always substitute with a question to understand better why they do it they way they do at the new place).


First, get the group together and tell them who you are and "inject" some key expectations, "I led a project so-and-so and I am a firm believer in meeting deadlines."

Next, and more importantly, every group I lead, I take the first few days/weeks to invite them to my office (while sitting on the same side of the desk or at a stand alone table) and have a casual conversation. Sort of like a job interview with a friendly discourse spin. I write down key items (family info, college, aspirations, strengths, weaknesses, etc.). I guide the conversation so I can LEARN about my employees while letting them go in any direction they want. It is a critical 45-60 minutes that is well worth the investment.

Jay Godse

This guy has a team that is experienced and knows how to get stuff done. This means he will not have to spend time mentoring them on how to get stuff done. He needs to deeply respect that fact by not trying to manage how they get stuff done. He also needs to get to know the skills and motivations of the team members to see what they can do.

As the leader, he is expected to set the direction of the group, and he needs to do it boldly and without apology. Also, his team may not have the authority to remove obstacles to getting stuff done. This guy needs to show the team that he will step up to remove the obstacles. A part of setting direction is also to show them how their work fits into the bigger picture.


Alignment, alignment, alignment - - around direction, responsibilities, priorities, measures... lead the alignment of your team vs micromanaging the specific tasks! The trick is to be a cheerleader rather than a 'boss'....

S Roche Hendrix

Great advice from everyone. I'd like to add a few, having been on both sides of this situation.
1. Respect their knowledge and experience while keeping in mind that you are bringing your own unique outside perspective.
2. Use "why" to your advantage, if they can't answer why they do things a certain way there is a an opportunity for improvement.
3. Never act like you know something you don't. They will see right through it. This is a fast path to losing their respect.
4. Remember you don't have to know everything. You just need to know who knows.

Bret Simmons

All of the above are good suggestions, especially listening and learning.

To listen, you have to SHUT UP, which is one of the hardest things leaders have to learn to do, no matter how long on the job. Consider yourself a resource, not THE source.

More than listening, you also have to share about yourself. They need to know who you are and that you are a real person just like them. The issue is trust, and we trust people we know and believe can do the job well, stand for what we stand for, and have our best interests in mind.

And be present, be available. You can't become authentic if you are absent.

And while you are present, do real work. Roll up your sleves and get next to your folks. Get involved and get your hands dirty - it is the best way to learn the job and to learn about your people.

Great question. Hope this helps.

Alain Jourdier

The best thing he's got going for him is that he doesn't want to be an asshole or go on a power trip...that shows leadership right there.

Being longer in the tooth than your student friend, I remember when I first got the helm of a team. What I did was be myself and listen more than I talked. I figured I was in charge for a reason---mainly that I had earned it. Some of the folks were older than me and had more time in grade (so to speak) and I respected them for who they were, what they did and how they could help me, and us, be successful. Then we got to know each other and it turned out fine. Fear is good if you can use it to be even better and when you realize that fear is simply the universe keeping you humble.

Some other readers have said to be prepared, etc. All good advice.

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