Align with your team using this one simple exercise…

Meet John.  John has been part of his team for three years – he knows his peers well, the team is doing a good job.  The Manager has resigned from the company, and John is promoted.  Congrats John!  Now the fun begins!

So John comes in on a Monday morning, as the newly minted Manager of the team, now the fearless leader!  Certainly John has many great ideas to implement that will help the team accomplish great things.  He probably can’t wait to get started!

Hold on John.  Pause for a moment.

Even if you are 100% certain your ideas are the best thing to do for your team’s performance, be warned that many, many Managers have started off on the wrong foot by trying to implement good ideas before taking important steps to build trust.

The first task for any manager is to build trust.  Genuine, authentic trust.

I recommend one simple activity for John to gain trust of the team and get off to a great start.  The exercise is simply called “Start Stop Continue” (this is not my original activity – I learned it a while back, there are many representations of it online… I truly do not know the origination).  The idea is very simple:  find out what the team thinks that you (collectively) should start doing, should stop doing, and should continue doing.  

Start with a whiteboard (or note-taking paper on the wall) like this:


Let the group know that you would like to hear their honest opinions about how the team can succeed together (this action of “asking for help” is HUGE in building trust).

My recommendation is to begin with the ‘Continue’ section.  Ask the team, “what would you like us to continue doing as a team?” Write down responses as they come in, whether big or small, work related or not.  Note: it’s VERY important that you write down each response word for word.  Exactly as it was shared by the team member.  Don’t paraphrase, don’t summarize… don’t inject your own judgement as you write it down.  You can build additional trust by writing down their exact words.

Next, proceed to the ‘Start’ section.  “What would you like our team to start doing?”

Finally, the ‘Stop’ section.  “What do you think we should stop doing?”

Again, write down every answer, big or small, exactly as it is spoken (if the idea is lengthy, ask the person to summarize or “headline” their thoughts for you, then write it down exactly as they summarize

At the conclusion, you have three very good lists that form your first steps as a Manager.  You know what to continue doing, what to stop doing, and some ideas of what to start.  This list will give you some really good “early wins” with your team, and truly build trust with them as they see you taking their input and implementing it.  Maybe you can discontinue a certain meeting, or a weekly status report that doesn’t add value… there are likely many small things you can consider.

The largest task will likely come from the “Start” list – combining the team’s great ideas with some you already have.  Prioritize.  Layout a plan, and work together to make progress on those ideas.  As you all make progress together, the team will feel engaged, and excited about the work to be done!

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