Almost every manager begins his or her tenure with the goal of building a top-notch leadership team. Yet as time passes and managers move on to new assignments, they often look back and regret that they didn't develop their team faster and more aggressively. What's behind this seeming contradiction — and what can managers do to establish an A-team as quickly as possible?
Let's start by looking at a few of the dynamics facing a new manager, some of which are described by Michael Watkins in his book The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. One factor is that most new managers inherit an existing team and, in fairness, want to give incumbents the benefit of the doubt that they are right for the job. At the same time, most new managers realize that they need to learn about their new business or function, and that much of that learning will come from the existing team. So right from the start, the manager is in an awkward position — evaluating the team members while also dependent on them for internal knowledge and expertise. To make it even more complicated, team members, realizing that they are being assessed, may skew their behavior to reflect what they think the new manager is looking for, so that first impressions may be inaccurate. Given these dynamics, many managers are hesitant to move too quickly, wanting to gather more data before making any dramatic changes.