One of the best and easiest ways to build credibility with your team is to interview them one on one as soon as possible after you step into your leadership role. The more time you let slip by, the more difficult it will be to have the kind of open conversation that you are looking for.
As their leader, you are investing in them and their future success. Interviewing your direct reports is incredibly powerful and provides you as the leader with great insight on how to best lead the individual as well as deploy their capabilities, skills, talents and interests to maximum effect.
Some leaders make the mistake that interviewing their staff is all about "selling" the team (or worse, on you their leader). Don’t do this. Focus instead on the individual sitting in front of you. Ask powerful open ended questions such as:
This conversation need not take anymore than 20 minutes per person however you can rest assured that it will be time well spent. The tangible outcomes of understanding people’s motivation for being a part of the team and what they would like to see or do as a team member are obviously beneficial.
The less tangible benefits are associated with you as the leader taking time out of your schedule to get their input and demonstrate your support for their success on the team. This adds credibility to your credibility account in a big way.
Depending on the flow of the conversation, you can also share your thoughts and aspirations with the individuals thus starting to shape the direction you want to take. It is important not to over do this though. Make it about them.
It is obviously critical that you interview everyone on the team and not just a select few. If you can't interview everyone, you should count on the people you missed, feeling either left out or under appreciated - neither of which is good for growing leadership credibility!
If after you have interviewed everyone, there are differences of opinion, areas of expertise that are missed or other "findings" you can grow even more credibility by highlighting this on a "team" basis and asking their opinion on how they want to deal with it.
For example, if there is no one on your team that likes doing taking minutes at a meeting for example, asking them: "How do you want to handle this task while being fair to everyone and knowing that no one really wants to do it?" If the team makes a decision to have the minute taker rotate from one week to the next, you will have gained credibility by asking and empowering them to come up with a solution.
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