How to handle first-day jitters — Part 2

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, September 09, 2018

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Dear CG:

Last week we looked at general strategies to survive the first-week jitters on the new job. As promised, this week we will look at immersion techniques that a new manager or team leader should consider using in the first week or month to help in the successful transition into the new role.

Regardless of your technical training and experience, navigating the choppy waters of the human factor, that is, establishing your social credibility as the team leader, is often the biggest hurdle a new manager will face. Research has shown that many new managers are ill-prepared in respect of people management skills, and often there is little or no training to prepare you for the challenges of leading and motivating people. This is true whether the incumbent is new to the company or new to the management strata. The key strategy, then, is to prepare yourself.

Decide on the key things you need to engage in during that crucial first week and do a bit of advanced planning as a means of strategising how and when you will accomplish these tasks. Here are a few things that are likely to be on your top 10 list.

i. Orientation

Your induction is vital; make the most of it. The awareness and knowledge of the person conducting this exercise is of importance. Make a mental note of any heads-up you are given about members of your team, but do not become overly concerned about hints of negative personalities or performers. Purported lemons can become your lemonade.

ii. Know your role

Become thoroughly conversant with your task and your performance criteria.

iii. Get to know your supervisor

A clear understanding of your supervisor's expectations, personality type, and communication style will be valuable to your success.

iv. Get to know your team

Get to know each direct report personally. Know who are the informal team leaders or influencers. Remember though that your aim is to build strong professional relationships, not personal friendships.

v. Inspire your team

Your team needs to know early in the game that you believe that collectively the goals can be achieved. Affirm and acknowledge past accomplishments. Outline expectations and group norms.

vi. Learn the culture

Learn the culture of the organisation, the social norms, and existing alliances. Don't set out to impose yourself into or disintegrate established informal groups. Observe the dynamics and try to determine how you may capitalise on these existing relationships.

vii. Identify your management style

Determine what leadership or management styles will be suitable for the team collectively, and for individual outliers.

viii. Be visible

Do not hibernate in your office. The more visible and accessible you are, the easier it will be for your team to connect with you.

ix. Do not mask your vulnerability

Do not retreat to your office when a challenge you are not sure how to handle arises. Show that you are a team player by asking for suggestions.

x. Dress like a leader

This does not mean that you should buy a new wardrobe. Remain authentic, but step it up a notch.

Develop your own schedule for every day of your first week. Without a clear operational strategy, it is very easy for you to be swamped with tasks and meetings. Try to determine what will be your primary focus for each day, especially during the first week. I hope that you will follow through with this until it becomes your habit for success.

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at

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