"I'm the new leader of a team that has worked together for a while. How do I get to know them and gain confidence in their abilities without stepping on toes?"
Three words: Make it personal. Make it your priority to spend one-on-one time with each member of this team. Get to know them as people before you ever ask about business.
View this opportunity as relationship-building. Relationships take time to build and maintain, so don’t rush it. At the beginning of any relationship, those involved spend time feeling each other out. In doing so, commonalities, as well as shared interests and goals, are discovered. Along the way, you’ll naturally discover things about their life experiences, including professional experiences.
Ask questions like:
- Where were you born?
- How many people are in your family?
- What did you learn about leadership as a child?
- What do you think you are really good at?
- When you were a child, what did you want to grow up and be?
- What do you value?
- What’s most important to you?
Prepare to share answers to these questions as well. Building trust and displaying vulnerability is a two-way street.
In addition to taking these steps, check out your company’s intranet. Most organizations provide a site where an employee can complete a profile on themselves. You’ll gain a lot of knowledge about your team members there as well.
Once you feel you have laid a strong foundation, ask this powerful question: "What can I do as your leader to set you up for success?” They’ll be pleased that you care enough to know how to best work with them. As a result, they will care about you. You’ll more naturally be accepted as the leader — and a member — of their team.
But remember, this process must not be rushed. Take things slowly and gradually.