First day as a leader

Your first day as a leader is very important. Everyone is a little bit nervous and expects something from you. Let’s not keep them waiting. It’s the first time when you are not waiting anymore to see what’s happening, contrary you are the one who is now in the leading position. You should prepare for this day, such that you are not caught off guard.


On the first day, there are a few things you need to make sure are clear for everybody:

Why?

Why are we all here? What do we need to do in the next couple of months/years together? Those are questions that should be answered on the first day. It’s very important to set a common goal as soon as possible.

Example: This team was put together because we found a new niche in the market. We need to create a new revolutionary product that will help thousands of people around the world. The goal is to have a working prototype of the product by the end of the year.

Of course, this is not a complete presentation, you have a starting point now. However, you need to ensure you set a common objective with a deadline that is achievable, measurable but challenging. It should be a SMART objective(Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Don’t forget to ask questions every step of the way. You already know what you have to do. And probably you’ve spent a lot of time thinking or even working on this product/project. Be sure you don’t exaggerate with a ton of details. You want to make this project sound fun and challenging. Because this is how you are going to make it. 🙂

What do we value?

From your first day as a leader, the foundation of what will be a great team has to be settled. To make this happen, you want to make sure the team knows what is valued in the company, and what you as a leader value. A few examples could be:

  1. Collaboration
    • Example: “Because I believe that innovation is something that can not be achieved without collaboration and our goal is to innovate I encourage everyone to collaborate”.
  1. Inspiration
    • Example: “We try to inspire each other every day to explore new ideas that can make our products better.”
  1. Integrity
    • Example: “Mistakes will be made, and that’s OK because this is how we grow. But, we are not going to hide them, but rather talk about them, to understand the root cause and construct a plan to mitigate them.”

How will the team work together?

The next important thing on your list on your first day as a leader should be reserved for an explanation of how you will interact with your team. Most importantly, you should explain your role as the leader of the team. Things that you want to make clear:

  1. How are you going to communicate with your team?
    • Example: “I will probably have a lot of questions for you during the work day. Also, I don’t what to disturb you from your work, I know how important is to maintain focus. Let’s agree on a time frame when we can have a few minutes to catch up.”
  1. How the team will communicate with you?
    • Example: “You can email me every time you need my help and I will get back to you as soon as possible”
  1. What do you expect from your team?
    • Example: “Please inform me every time you know you will be late at work or for a meeting“;
    • Example: “I try to plan the project, but to do that, I need your input every time you encounter a delay in your work.”

      Those are just a few examples. Keep in mind you don’t have to be directive, this is your first day as a manager. If you do this thing right, you will probably diminish the times when you will need to take attitude.
  1. How are we (as a team) going to make decisions?
    • There will be times when the team will have to make some decisions. It’s always better to let them know from the beginning how you are going to make those decisions. There are teams in which they like to vote their way out. Others will leave the decision to their leader. Or you can create lists with arguments and at the end do the math. Either way, you decide, and you need to communicate with your team. It’s always better to think about this kind of problem beforehand, or at least this is how I see it. In every company there are some historical ways of doing this kind of things, you can either stick with those, or you can try to challenge them and try to do something different, hoping for a better result.
  1. How will the tasks be distributed?
    • To avoid confusion or create disturbances, communicate the way the tasks are going to be distributed inside the team. More importantly, you will probably have different types of tasks; you should also inform people about these.
    • Example: “During the week we are going to solve a lot of tasks, and we have multiple categories of tasks. Most of the time I will assign tasks based on availability

What is off-limits?

If you don’t want to have surprises later, you have to make clear what behaviors are excepted and what are off-limits from your first day as a leader. Probably it will sound childish but you have to point out even the most obvious things. I’m pretty sure the next ones will apply to every team around the world:

  1. We don’t raise our voices
    Like I said before, probably you think something like that shouldn’t be put on the table because it is so obvious. However, everyone is now in a new environment, in this environment you set the rules. You need to be specific in every aspect.
    • Example: “I value teamwork and cooperation, feeling safe and respected inside the team it’s my primary concern. Having this in mind, raising our voices will not be tolerated“.
  1. We listen to understand
    Another important behavior that should be encouraged in your effective team is listening. Most of the time when a team is in the early stages and the informal ranks are not formed yet, they will fight for every decision. It should be made clear from the beginning that everyone’s opinion is valued and will be heard.
    • Example: “Teamwork will be encouraged and rewarded, as part of the team I hope everyone will be open and will respect other opinions”.
  1. We don’t patronize each other
    You will have different personalities in your team. Some will be tougher, some softer. In other words, you have to make sure everyone is feeling safe and valued in the team. As everything until now is important you make this thing clear from the beginning.
    • Example: “There will be times when the tension will arise. When this is happening we have to remember that we are a team. Any kind of insults will not be tolerated. For any kind of problems come to me first.

The examples above should not be the only points discussed during the “What is off-limits?” meeting. Those are some generic examples that should be followed in a well-organized team. If for you, as a manager, there are other points that you find relevant, make sure you discuss them with your team. What I found crucial is that you should lay down your most important principles on your first day as a leader. By doing this, they will know what you expect, and you will have leverage if something wrong happens. By “leverage” I mean they will not be able to say: “I didn’t know that this behavior is crossing a line”.

Of course, you should live by these principles too. If you ask your team to be on time and you are not, that principle will lose its power. So make sure you also do what you preach.

What processes must be followed?

In every company, some processes should and must be followed. The most important ones should be pointed out in the first few days. Most of the time you will find a little bit of reticence in your colleagues. Nobody wants to memorize long mandatory process steps. If you want to make the process digestible, try to explain at every step, why is the process important and how we can benefit if we use the process correctly.

What will be evaluated?

If you want to have an efficient team, it has to be clear from the first day as a leader what you expect from them. So that it will be clear what should be delivered. There are some questions you need to have an answer to:

  • How we will measure performance?
  • What is our short term goal?
  • What is our long term goal?
  • How the objectives will be planed?
  • What metrics will be followed during the year?

Conclusion

The first day in this new role will probably feel overwhelming. You now must act as the person in charge. In the beginning, one of the things that you can do to make your life easier is to use lists. This helped me a lot, make sure that you write everything that you want to say or everything that you what to do. Because you will probably have a lot on your mind this will bring some clarity and organization. In other words, you don’t want to do the same meeting twice because you forgot to mention something.

Another important thing is don’t take the time frame “the first day” to the letter. Of course, all the things written in this article can happen during a week or a month. The most important is that you think about those things. Even if you don’t what to discuss it with your team, because you don’t find them important right now, I can assure you that at some point you will have to do it. So it’s better to be prepared for this, rather than improvising something when the time comes.

If you want to make this day a little bit simpler for you, and I think you want. Please make sure to read my other article on How to Lead a Great Job Interview. If you are still at the beginning stages of your journey, and you can choose your collogues, this can make a big difference.

Like I said in other articles: “I did not do everything that I wrote, but I wish I would”, that’s why now I write these things maybe someone will use them. Don’t forget to like and share if you like my content, an article like this takes time and energy to be created. I wish you the best of luck on your first day as a leader and in your managerial career. Cya!!

Author: Horațiu Condrea

My name is Horațiu Condrea, and I work as a Software Developer Manager at Siemens PLM Software. I hope that my experiments will prove to be useful for many of you guys/girls out there. Don’t forget to leave a comment whenever you run over a bug or something that is not working as it should be. For any kind of information contact me.

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