5 steps to adopting a new team like a product adoption campaign

Photo by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

There are many emotions when selected to manage a new team. There is a level of anxiety and tension between the team and the new manager before it even starts. You need to learn about each other and find a way to build rapport in a short amount of time, so you can begin to focus forwards.

After observing new managers take on new teams and reflecting on my own experiences of what worked and what didn’t. I wanted to share five tip strategy on how to use your time effectively and quickly work well with your new team.

One of the things to realise early on is that you cannot win over everyone simultaneously. There are many moving parts with People, Process and Performance. One of your priorities is getting to know your team, building rapport, and reducing friction. This article focuses on the People aspect to help you build trust and have the team aligned to your vision quickly.

One view I have found that worked is to consider the team as new customers from a marketing point of view. There is an adoption lifecycle to a new product, and in this case, you and the changes you are bringing are the new product. It is easy to think that you are the new manager, so the team needs to make an effort towards you. But that could take some time, and it depends on their current sentiment on how effective that strategy would be.

Instead, we want to view the team into three groups: early Adopters, Early Majority and Laggards. Utilising the basic marketing cycle of awareness, engagement, acquisition, and advocacy will have you, and the team synergised and hit goals in no time.

One. Have a clear vision

To attract the team, they need to get a sense of your plans and what you think your purpose is. A straightforward method of communicating this is to create a vision statement and a clear ‘why’ behind it.

The ‘why’ will relate to the reason the role was advertised and why they choose you for it. Was it your subject matter expertise? Was it that you have a strong people focus? Are you more of a visionary or a tactical? Or have you been positioned to fix a team that isn’t functioning as it could be?

Regardless of which one, it is imperative to tell your new team what your vision is and ‘why’ you are focused on it and how you are going to help achieve it. You should also explain how they will benefit from the vision in their roles or careers to become invested in the same vision. They need to see the personal value in it for it to be driven intrinsically.

Two. Communicate effectively

As with any job, the first month is the hardest. You are trying to find your feet while 100 things are being asked of you or expected that you already know. During this phase, it is easy as a manager to retreat inward and focus on being reactive to these things.

To capture the new team, the frequency and consistency of communication are essential. Give them some updates on your day or your week. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions to gain insights or leverage their experience. Communicating and exchanging information is a great way to build trust, show value in their knowledge and shortcut your learnings in the new role.

The adage of the manager has all the answers is dead. You and your reports are a cohesive team that works best when you work together. Communicating openly and frequently will build strong bonds quickly and reduce any manager/employee barriers.

Three. Early Adopters

Nurturing a relationship can take time, so you need to be selective about where your time is consumed. It is easy to feel you need always to be addressing the team whole team. But there are also groups within groups and personality clusters within groups.

One of your first observations is working out who has an early adopter mindset and is already keen to help you. To help identify them, they are the curious ones. They are likely asking you many questions and are not caught up on things needing to be perfect straight away. They are genuinely trying to understand how they can help you.

Approximately 20% of the team are early adopters, and that is the group you want to lean your time towards early on. This time investment will speed up the adoption of the next two groups.

Early adopters are looking forward to changes and improvements. It is not to say they are unhappy or think something is broken. Their curiosity always drives them to try new things to improve. They probably already have a list of ideas they want to try.

By listening to them, enabling them and empowering them to seize quick wins will quickly build rapport. This group will start to drive more energy into the team and build momentum towards the new vision, driving a path to advocacy.

Four. Early and Late Majority

A large portion of the team will fall into this group. They are a little conservative and need some extra time to let their guard down. They need to observe results from you before they start to trust you. It would be best if you executed the things that you are saying to gain their respect.

During this time, the advocates share positive messages about some of their initiatives and how they have a positive impact on the team. Hearing those messages from within the team is weighted more highly than your encouragements.

Spending time nurturing and providing opportunities for them to take action. Allowing them to input on your initiatives will help them feel valued and take some ownership of the changes.

Take some time to understand their style and adapt some of your communication and focus points to match. Taking a few steps to shorten the authority gap between you will create harmony and a safer environment for productivity. Take the time to address any concerns they might have, and be open with your discussions on what results you need to achieve and how you can remove their obstacles. This group wants to move forward but require a bit more effort from you to gain momentum.

Five. The Laggards

The last group are the laggards. They have been hanging in the background, watching and holding on to their opinions. This group could be a combination of talented people that like things their way or people that were not happy before you arrived, and you have just added fuel to their unhappiness. There could be a range of factors why they feel the way they think. These factors could be internal, from the old manager or the broader company environment.

Now that you have aligned with a majority of the team and goals are being progressed. It is time to peel back the layers of the onion on these individuals.

You want to discover the root cause of their feelings. It will take more of your patience to ask the right questions and not react to some of their comments. Try not to take it personally and listen to the message they are telling you.

Show that you care and ensure you have upfront conversations that challenge directly (refer to Radical Candor). They might have been thinking about a role change, which is the catalyst to help them pursue that. They might have excellent knowledge but no opportunity to use it. Or they might just be upset with the organisation or decisions made that have created their negative feelings.

Work with each of them and ask, ‘what does success look like for you?’. Then help build a plan that gets them closer to their goals and yours.

Like in marketing, you work through and build your customer base into advocates one group at a time. Empowered employees will be more productive and feel they can trust to tell you when things might not be going well. The goal is for the whole team to feel heard and valued.

Without addressing everyone in each group. You run the risk of leaving some unhappy individuals in the back corners creating tension in the team. This tension starts to build over time, where it becomes more disruptive and takes more effort to resolve.

Remember that you are in their team as much as they are in yours, so take the time and win them over.

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Leader | People | Innovation | Technology— Experienced people manager keen to share my thoughts and ideas on leadership, personal growth and people management.

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