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Career Doctor: An IML Specialist Takes A Problem To Task



The problem: ‘I’m a new boss who has discovered that morale and productivity are low. What’s the best way to raise standards?’


Peter says: It’s easy to become overwhelmed, lost and bewildered as a young first-time manager taking over a dysfunctional team with a very negative culture. The situation can be magnified if there’s little or no support to coach or guide you through the steps you must take to establish your credibility and garner trust from the members in your team. In any case it’s best to have a fluid plan that you can adapt depending on circumstance. Once you have that set, consider the following as team-building tips that will help you execute your plan.


Let them know who you are
At the earliest opportunity, speak to the whole team about your work history and who you are as a person, and present an overview of why you were given the position.

Be open with your intentions
When setting out plans for the future, don’t be tempted to outline a “grand plan”. Building trust, boosting credibility and setting out guidelines for a collaborative culture are key. You will need to be inclusive while remaining cautious when explaining your vision of the team’s future, especially when it includes building a stronger more positive and proactive culture within the team.

Up close and personal
Spend one-on-one time with each team member as soon as possible. This provides the opportunity to learn more about each other, find out what’s working well and why, and what could be improved and how. It’s one of the best ways to find out what the real concerns are. This should become a fixed weekly or fortnightly catch-up to provide and receive open and honest feedback.

The task at hand
As soon as you know what’s working well and what needs to be improved from the team, convene a team meeting to advise your team on what you’ve learned from the one-on-ones and how you plan to tackle the areas that need to be improved (after ensuring to ask them for their ideas). Then divide up the tasks, empowering individuals and teams, while you take responsibility for the big-ticket items.

Reinforce standards for correct behaviour and performance, referencing job descriptions and codes of conduct. Emphasise that you also abide by these standards. Respect, credibility and trust are supported by consistency and fairness in all you do. You’re a role model from the very first moment you take up the job. Your team will be watching you.


Peter Cullen is an education and training facilitator who teaches “Manage People, Performance and Business Effectively” courses. Each three-day program engages participants in developing and implementing their capabilities as manager and leaders.

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