Studer: Tips for new leaders

Quint Studer, Special to the News Journal Published 8:03 a.m. CT July 23, 2016 | Updated 5:51 p.m. CT July 23, 2016

(Photo: News Journal file photo)
This week I received a note from someone who just was selected to a leadership position and wanted to create a great culture at his new stop.
So I sent the first tip I always give to new leaders.
Ask your employees questions. Conduct a survey.

I feel a misstep that many leaders make right off the bat is to come in and quickly announce their game plan. You always hear about those famed “first 100 days” from elected officials and all the things they will get accomplished. But think about it: These candidates know what to say to gain favor. Why? Because the candidates and their staff have been talking for weeks on end with people on the campaign trail. They have mounds of polling information that tells them the topics that matter most.
So you could argue that, essentially, they’re asking questions.
Someone new on the job (or on the campaign) won’t have those answers. So the tip: Go get them.

If a new leader comes from outside the organization, while they have met some people during the interview process and studied the organization, they are still in the learning mode. Even the person promoted from within can benefit for taking a “fresh eyes” approach.

So after I received the note the other day, this is what I wrote back: Each employee should receive an email with a link to an online survey tool (like Survey Monkey, etc.). A cover letter lets each employee know their input is sought and their view is important. Then I recommended these questions.

1. What does the organization (or adjust to scope of the leader’s responsibilities) do well that you feel is important to continue? This provides the leader with insights on what employees feel good about. A new leader needs to start out as if there are good things to build on, after all many people have worked very hard for the organization, even if things may not be in good shape at the present time.

2. What are some opportunities for improvement? My experience is many of these will match what the leaders have in mind. So it’s much better to roll out plans based on employee feedback. Employees are smart people and will be very helpful in sharing what they feel will improve the organization.

3. What advice do you have for me in this role? Employees want to work for an effective leader and will help if asked and listened to.

4. What questions do you have?
The answers are then shared with the group in a thankful manner.
There are many benefits to this process. The leader receives a good foundation on what the employees think. This provides what employees feel are strengths and opportunities to improve. The leader gains advice from those they will lead and identify what questions need answers.
On top of that, it will also provide the leader with many “wins.” When you ask questions before unleashing any plans, it hits that important sweet spot with employees on inclusion. They know their input is valued. It also helps the leader learn of potential sticky issues they may face. It provides objective feedback to the leader, which is much better than a few employees taking it upon themselves to provide the leader of what could be a selective view of the “lay of the land.”
At the end of the day for the leader, the plan going forward is now a “we” plan not an “I” plan.
Getting off to a positive start is the goal of every leader. By implementing this tip the leader can assure they are off to a good beginning.
Quint Studer is a professional volunteer and a successful business leader, speaker and author who has coached success and workplace culture across the country.

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