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

September 15, 2017 Lydia Adams

New manager in a Business meeting at a lounge

Congrats! You’ve landed a new gig leading a team at a great company. Now comes the difficult part: building relationships with your direct reports. Coming in as a manager with an existing team in place, you face unique challenges—established relationships, past personality conflicts, loyalty to a previous boss—all of which can become overwhelming as you get acquainted with your new position. You can turn these challenges into positives, however, simply by focusing your approach. Read on to find out some of the best ways to come in strong, build relationships and gain respect.

Make Time for One-on-One Meetings

The most important thing you can do is speak to every team member individually and just listen. Let them explain team dynamics, roles and responsibilities, and department history. Use this as an opportunity for them to get comfortable with your leadership style and your commitment to listen first and make changes later. Continue to hold one-on-one meetings and let the team know you care about their personal career goals.

Conduct Team Development Meetings

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 captain of the ship. Take notice of how your new team works together and look for non-verbal communication between members. 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.

Get Leadership Support - Build Relationships as a New Manager

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

Build Relationships as a New Manager

Build Colleague Relationships

As you meet other managers in your organization, work to identify those who will be a good resource for information and support. Set up calendar meetings to ask specific questions that come up with your team or your boss. Offer your support to their teams and find opportunities to work together in a show of good faith and cooperation. These relationships will be key as you move forward.

Hold Team-Building Events

Make sure to plan an event in the first few months for your team to get to know you. Kick back with a happy hour, or plan a team lunch out. Getting everyone away from the office and into a laid-back setting will ease the tension that comes from having a new boss come in and will show your commitment to a positive working relationship.


By taking a communicative approach, listening first and making time for important conversations, you’ll establish a foundation of teamwork and respect. Looking for ways to increase productivity once you get going? Check out our blog post: Keeping Your Team on Track: How to Make Productivity a Priority.

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