I used to work for a pretty big international company. I started out at the bottom and worked my way up to manage the team at my location. It was a smaller team that I grew up with so the dynamics were simple and I had an insider’s scoop on everyone.
The next step for my career was to become the manager of a larger team. I relocated when a spot became available. My regional director at the time gave me an invaluable piece of advice after giving me a rundown of all the challenges that I would be facing. Part of my job would be to set things aright once again, as they had gone astray.
I would be going into the unknown and there would be a whole team who knew each other and had formed bonds. I would be the stranger coming in at the top with no real knowledge on the team dynamics, the region’s market, or the local culture. It had a huge potential of blowing up in my face. I knew the company well enough that I was more afraid of the team ganging up on me than missing the mark on sales or reaching the local clients.
My regional director sat me down and gave me a key page from her playbook. She told me to go in there and make no immediate changes. Take a little time to just observe without outward judgement, but making note of what needs fixing, getting a clue to how people are, and extend a hand of friendship. Use that information to make a game plan. Tackle a couple of easy fixes first to gain backing from the team, and then go for the big sweeping changes.
Also, never just come in and tear down the status of things with harsh criticism. People will take offense and close ranks, even if you are right. It’s like you are attacking them and telling them what a poor job they’ve done so far, even if that’s not what you are saying. Win them over, include them in the solution, take into account their points of view. You can learn from each other, and even if ultimately you must lay down the law, it’s so much easier if you’ve won people to your side under the banner of company standards versus offending them and making them feel unheard and disrespected. It only makes your job ten times harder than it has to be when you alienate your biggest resource, people. Why do that to yourself? The old adage rings true. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
In other words it boils down to, getting the lay of the land, pulling your resources together, making a road map, and going for it by crossing the small hills on your way to climbing the mountain.
I’ve since found that advice to be beneficial over and over again. I’ve been thinking about it lately because of our current political situation. I wonder if our new president had come in, taken a moment to observe, start small, and at least make some sort of gesture to reach out to the other sides, would the last two weeks played out differently?
We have felt the harsh criticism, we have seen huge sudden drastic changes. They seem one sided and like a blow to our pride in our country as he steamrolls his way across it. We closed ranks right quick. I wonder if President Trump had come in and behaved more subtly, would the rest of us have been lulled into thinking everything was status quo? Would he have won more people over? Would we have allowed ourselves to think the government would work itself out and we could go on being lulled by our usual entertainments?
I’m not sure whether I would like to find out. On the one hand, it’s felt like one shock after another coming from the White House. It would be nice to do without that, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to have such big changes snuck in under the radar.
Either way, it would seem that President Trump has had his job become ten times harder than it might have been had he used a gentler hand.