Laying a Foundation: How to Build Relationships as a New Manager of an Existing Team

July 15, 2022 Sarah Dameron

Leader learning how to build relationships as a new manager

Congrats! You’ve landed a new gig leading a team at a great company. Now comes the difficult part: learning how to build relationships as a new manager. Joining a new organization can feel daunting as you’ll face unique challenges – established relationships, past personality conflicts, loyalty to a previous boss – all of which can affect your day-to-day conversations. As you get accustomed to the new company and environment, you’ll also have to build rapport with your new team. Consider this: a Harvard Business Review survey reveals that 58 percent of people trust strangers more than their boss.

Navigating the interpersonal aspects of a company isn’t a straightforward task. But don’t fret, many of the above challenges can be turned into positives, simply by focusing your approach towards cultivating healthy work relationships with your direct reports. Read on to explore some of the best ways to build relationships as a new manager of an existing team.

Make Time for One-On-One Meetings

one-on-one meetings to build relationships as a new manager

You might be overly eager to develop relationships with your team and that’s okay. However, the most important thing you can do is speak to every team member individually and just listen with an intent to understand rather than listening with an intent to reply. Let them explain team dynamics, roles and responsibilities and department history. Use this as an opportunity for them to get acclimated with your leadership style and your commitment to listen first, make changes later. Continue to hold one-on-one meetings (whether that’s weekly or once a month), and let the team know you care about their personal career goals.

Conduct Team Development Meetings to Build Relationships as a New Manager

new manager in team development meeting

Especially at the beginning, it’s vital to bring everyone together - not only to witness how the team interacts but to solidify your role as the new head honcho of the team. Take note of how your new team works together – is there camaraderie and connection? A strong team dynamic is crucial to work success and promotes productivity. Make sure to have a written agenda and allow for individuals to present updates in their area to empower them and gain insight at the same time. You might also consider jazzing up your team meetings by:

  • Celebrating achievements

  • Taking the meeting off-site

  • Conducting a ‘learning roundtable’

  • Watching a Ted Talk that’s relevant to the meeting agenda

Get Leadership Support

new managers in meeting with leadership

Don’t forget one of your best resources is your new boss. In many cases, your boss will have seen your team’s work habits and can bring the distinct advantage of knowing what your predecessor did well (and what they struggled with). Ask questions, not only about your goals, but about what your boss would like to see accomplished by the team. Now’s the time to make clear your approach in managing your new team as a highly engaged leader, and get your boss’s buy-in.

Build Colleague Relationships as a New Manager

new manager of an existing team building colleague relationships

As you meet other managers in your organization, work to identify those who will be a good resource for information and support (as well as mentorship). Set up calendar meetings to ask specific questions that pop up with your team or your boss. Offer your support in return to their teams and find opportunities to work together in a show of good faith and cooperation. You can do this by:

  • Paying close attention to their communication preferences

  • Being considerate of their work prioritization

  • Keeping them in the loop

Hold Team-Building Events

new manager hosting team-building event

Every business needs a positive company culture to thrive – the same can be said for teams as well. Getting to know your employees and forming bonds are the main goals of team building. Moreover, nurturing those connections is the cornerstone that keeps everything in place (and running smoothly). To establish this, you need to make sure to organize an event during the first few months for your team to get familiar with you. Unwind with a happy-hour or plan a team lunch outing. Getting everyone away from the office and into a relaxed setting will ease the tension that comes from having a new boss come in and will show your push towards a favorable working relationship. What’s more, you’ll benefit from the following with team-building activities:

  • Encourage creative problem-solving

  • Make yourself more approachable

  • Identify the leaders of the group

  • Uncover hidden talents

By taking a communicative approach, listening first and making time for important conversations, you’ll establish a foundation of teamwork and respect.

Are you a manager of a remote (or hybrid) team? Check out our latest blog post: How to Effectively Manage a Remote Team: Tips to Making it Work.

In the meantime, if you’re wanting to build relationships as a new manager, but don’t know where to begin, reach out to one of our virtual accounting support experts. We’ve been helping new managers (in companies large to small) get the ball rolling and we can help you too.

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