The Best New Managers Create an Open Environment

a photo of a door with strong locks

Over and over, we have been told that teams work most effectively in a relatively open environment that is built upon trust, healthy conflict, accountability and mutual respect. We certainly see that with our clients.

But is it enough as a new manager to unlock your door and tell your team members they are welcome any time? Apparently not. An open door policy alone does not encourage your followers to share their ideas and concerns. Based upon our annual employee engagement research, line workers consistently tell us that few are willing to test the sincerity of the invitation…especially with a new manager.

If you as a new manager want to establish an organizational culture where feedback is valued, freely given and freely received, then you need to do more than just set the stage. You have to show your team members that your money is where your mouth is. You must set the example by soliciting feedback on your own performance and receive it in a spirit of learning and growing.

Here is how:

  • As a new manager – be the first.
    You must model the process. Acknowledge that you want to continuously learn how to improve as a new leader. Who better to evaluate your performance as a supervisor than those you supervise? Ask them for specific feedback and receive it graciously. Then check back now and then to see if you have in fact changed for the better. Consider a more formal 360-degree feedback process to get deeper feedback after you have been in your new leadership role for 6-9 months.
  • As a new manager – be specific.
    It is not enough to ask for general feedback as in, “Let me know how I am doing as a manager.” You need to zero in on a specific skill or behavior that you want to work on. Let’s say you want to get better at running weekly meetings. At the end of each session, ask how you might have moved things along more efficiently or if the agenda was followed or if everyone felt they had an opportunity to contribute.
  • As a new manager – make it safe.
    Not many direct reports or peers are going to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts if there are negative repercussions. Ensure that new ideas and perspectives are welcomed by the group and that no one is “shot down” for an idea that may seem impossible or off target. Use the brainstorming philosophy where ideas and concerns are invited and no judgment is made until the group has a chance to consider all the alternatives.

Hopefully you have access to new manager training that teaches you the best practices of how to model the behaviors that encourage constructive feedback. Then make sure that you do something about it.

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