Like our mothers always said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression—and this one in particular feels very high stakes. Your team will be used to working with their old leader, so their emotions may range from resentment to relief. And since old habits die hard, they’ll probably expect to treat you like they treated the old leader, regardless of how you want to be treated. Meanwhile, you’ll naturally want to prove to the team—and your bosses—that you can make an impact right away.
As a new leader, your official introduction must accomplish five goals:
Tell a story
Establish a positive tone, and
Explain how you’ll execute the work together.
It’s easy to remember if you think about how best to S.E.R.V.E. your and your team’s needs.
Story. Humanize and credentialize yourself to the team. Share the CliffsNotes version of your life: how you started your career, why you chose to pursue new opportunities, and what work you’re most proud of. What would you consider your most formative experiences? Don’t be afraid to get a little personal—being vulnerable and open can build the psychological safety that the team needs to succeed.
Expectations. Lay out what you hope to achieve together. What do you see as the team’s role within the organization, and what makes people good at that role? Call out work they’ve done that’s impressed you so far, and identify the opportunities that you believe you can shepherd the team towards. Be careful to avoid Mighty Mouse Syndrome—don’t create the expectation that you’re there to “fix” things unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Relationships. Now that you’ve established what you want to do, explain how you want work to be done. What are your biases as a leader? How should people interact with you, and what do you expect from the managers below you? This is also a good time to share your plan for how you intend to get to know the organization, and the individual members of team, better.
Vibes. Set yourself up to convey the right tone. Think about when you felt most “on” as a leader—how did you behave? What emotions did you want to portray? Or, try modeling your behavior on a leader you admire—what would they do in this situation? Evaluate where these interactions should take place. If you want to make it feel like work is changing, for instance, hold informal meetings in coffee shops or take the team out for a fancy breakfast.
Execution. Help the team understand what you want from them. Not only is it ok to ask for help, you should ask the team what they can help you better understand about the situation. Find out what’s made them successful and what you should take pains to avoid, and clarify what will change and what will stay the same. Lastly, determine what you want the team to do when they leave your presentation.