Leadership Barometer 148 New Leader

May 31, 2022

When you are transferred or assume command of a new unit it is a special time. What happens in the first few hours, or first few minutes will determine your success in your first year.

Reason: People form an opinion of you very quickly (first impression). That vision stays with them until supplanted by ideas from events that play out over time.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrated how human beings have an uncanny ability to size up another person instantly. The level of trust that will prevail during the entire first year is usually set before the first week of an assignment.

It is crucial to get off on the right foot with people. Unfortunately, many leaders come into a new assignment with the wrong attitude, and the impressions they make mean a rocky start.

Here are seven things that can help you get off on the right foot in any new position.

  1. Assume things are more right than wrong

It is a mistake to come into a new job with the attitude that everything is messed up. It is wise to remain calm initially. Seek to understand the strengths and good performance that already exists. 

The best advice is to keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut in terms of pronouncements. Seek to learn, appreciate, and reinforce.

  1. Establish rapport one on one

Meet with each employee in the new unit privately to chat about his or her role. Get to know the individual as a person. Be sure to put the person at ease with your demeanor. Indicate you have no hidden agenda other than just getting to know the individual. This discussion will begin to form some rapport between you and the person.

Asking questions about the employee’s family and hobbies demonstrates that you care enough to get to know that person. Sharing some of your own stories also tends to form a basis for trust.

Many new supervisors like to ask what the employee would like to see them do and not do.  This simple question often brings out issues that have been lurking in the culture before the new leader arrived. You also demonstrate an attitude of being willing to listen to new ideas.

  1. Build trust as early as possible

When meeting a new person, the basis for trust to start forming lies in the answer to five basic questions. I call these things “the five C’s for building trust.” As a leader:

  1. Are you Competent?
  2. Do you have good Character?
  3. Are you Consistent?
  4. Are you Cordial?
  5. Do you Care about the other person?

When you chat with new employees, keep these five things in mind. Work to answer all of them as positively and quickly as you can.

  1. Avoid pushing ideas from your former job

It is a good idea to refrain from bringing up the excellent policies in your prior position. Many new leaders make the mistake of saying, “In my last job we used to do this or that.”  It undermines the will of the people in the new unit. Individuals do not want to hear what went on in the boss’ prior position a dozen times a day. It wears thin very quickly.

There is an antidote to this common problem. When I would promote or move a manager, I would ask him or her to refer to the prior job only one time in public. Once they played that chit, I suggested the new leader refrain from other references for at least 2 months.

This constraint gave the new leader the opportunity to appreciate the good things that were happening.  The people never knew the difference; they just seemed to like the new manager quite a lot. 

  1. Observe the informal organization and cliques

The chemistry between people governs the culture of the organization. Be alert to the “informal power structure” because that is operating in tandem with the formal organization.

It is imperative to know who the informal leaders are, and begin a process to gain their trust. Often the sub-culture is extremely powerful, and it is often negative.  Work slowly and carefully before taking any action with a clique of individuals. You can make great strides working with the informal leaders, but only after you have developed some credibility and trust.

Get to know how the various members of the group like to interface and get things done. Bond with people by seeking their advice where possible.

  1. Practice management by wandering around extensively until you are a known quantity

Many new leaders make the mistake of sequestering themselves in strategic meetings early on. This labels them as suspect and less transparent.  Be open and out there for people to interface with daily.  Extra time devoted to this activity pays huge dividends, even if it means extra working hours for a while.

  1. Check your body language

Let people know you are truly happy to be there. Smile! Make sure all of your body language reflects that of an appreciative and interested leader. Be sincere about getting to know the ropes before making important decisions.

Do these seven things during your first weeks of a new assignment, and you will be on your way to a great tenure as a leader of the group. If you remember one thing from this article, remember this; it is the first blink of an impression that makes the most difference to your future.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on www.leadergrow.com.  

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.

Successful Supervisor Part 3 – New Sheriff in Town

December 4, 2016

Aside from the promotion from within the ranks, there is a second major way to obtain a new group supervisor. Bringing in a resource from outside the group has some advantages, but there are huge caveats for this method.

In this category, there are two common approaches that are used:

1) bringing in someone who has been a supervisor in another area, and

2) hiring a new college graduate as an entry level position.

In this article, I will describe some challenges and recommendations for each situation.

Transfer from another area

When bringing in a supervisor from another area of the company, or even a different company, at least she has the advantage of being a seasoned person who has experience leading front line employees.

A typical mistake made by the supervisor in this situation is to be too zealous with advice learned on the prior job.

Typical problem

Suppose a supervisor has been moved from the packaging area to the formulation group. She has been successful in the packaging assignment and wants to bring her enthusiasm and knowledge to the new challenge.

She begins by asking questions in meetings about how things are done in the formulation group she is now leading. She will make suggestions with various forms of “When I was with the Packaging Group, we used to have a daily update so we were all informed.”

People in the inherited group will listen politely as the supervisor makes logical suggestions based on her history. Unfortunately, after just a few suggestions, her new employees will start referring to “Miss Packaging” behind her back.

It will be a very long time before the new supervisor has the purchasing power she will need with people in the Formulation Group.


The antidote here is for the new supervisor to listen to how things are done in the new area without making continual references to her prior experience. The rule I tried to encourage with new managers is to allow them to refer to the old job one time for the first three months. That is a difficult challenge, but it is really important to not be overbearing with pre-existing theories at the start of a relationship.

New hire to the company

A second method of bringing in a new supervisor is to hire a high-potential person right out of school. Often the first line supervisor position is used as a way to “season” a bright new MBA in a large organization. This method is fraught with so many problems, it is a wonder that it ever works out.

Main problem

First of all, the supervisor has no practical experience leading people in the real world. She may have had a leadership course in her MBA curriculum, but her employees will be eager to show her where theory breaks down in the real world.

The cultural gap between a college educated supervisor and the people on the shop floor is huge. There is also a jealousy factor that results from the supervisor being viewed as a “silver spooner” who got a college degree simply because daddy had enough money and who never had to do “a real day’s work” in her life.

The new supervisor does not have the experiential background to handle the myriad of issues she will face in her first few weeks. As she is trying her best to learn, the employees in the area will be polite on the surface, but the breakroom discussions will center on how clueless she is.

It will take a very long time before she has the purchasing power to lead, yet she has been given a position that calls for great leadership from day one.

When you couple the lack of supervisory knowledge with the lack of content knowledge of the processes, the experience for the new supervisor is usually overwhelming, and failure is a typical result.

It is awful for the organization because performance will suffer; It is awful for the people because they are not being well led; It is worst for the new supervisor, because she is going to start out her career with a very bad performance.


1. The antidote here is to use a mentoring process where a new person coming out of school has the chance to learn the processes and people before being put into a position of supervisory power. Staff assignments can allow time for this mentoring to occur. Another position that can work as a temporary learning spot is an assistant to an excellent incumbent supervisor.

2. There are many training courses offered on how to make a solid entry as a new supervisor directly out of school. The American Management Association, Fred Prior Seminars, Franklin Covey, and Dale Carnegie all offer excellent baseline courses that are short in duration and not very expensive.

I also have such a course that I run several times a year in my home town of Rochester NY.  They can really help bridge the gap between the sterile world of academia and the messy world a new supervisor will soon face.

3. There are a number of great books on this specific topic. One of my favorites is “Managing People is Like Herding Cats” by Warren Bennis.

4. I have put out a series of 30 videos entitled “Surviving the Corporate Jungle” that contain tips on how to manage people with less potential for conflict. You can view some sample videos free at the following address.

If you are facing a situation where a new sheriff is coming in to lead a group, make sure you avoid the traps outlined above. You want to set up the new supervisor for success and not let her flounder for months before gaining the credibility to lead.

This article is a part in a series of articles on “Successful Supervision.” The entire series can be viewed on http://www.leadergrow.com/articles/supervision or on this blog.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of four books: 1.The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals (2003), 2. Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online (2006), 3. Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind (2009), and 4. Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change (2014). In addition, he has authored over 500 articles and videos on various topics in leadership and trust. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763

Rotating Leaders

June 4, 2016

Leaders who stay in the same job too long get stale and lose their edge. If you have been in the same leadership position more than 10 years, chances are you would benefit from a change.

When developing leaders, rotating positions is an effective method of keeping things fresh for the organization and giving leaders a chance to grow. The topic of this article is when and how to rotate leaders for maximum benefit to the organization and themselves.

I am coming at the topic from the vantage point of a senior leader seeking to create a group of excellent leaders who are moving into and out of the organization.

The first question is how often leaders should be rotated. My own bias is to avoid moving a leader more often than every three years. The reason is that it takes roughly three years to get the maximum benefit out of a leadership assignment.

The first year is spent getting to know the existing systems and people. It is a mistake for a new leader to parachute in with combat boots on and start moving people and systems too soon. People get confused, and critical mistakes are made by simply trying to be disruptive.

I asked new leaders to spend at least a few months observing what is happening and understanding it well before getting out the hammer and saw. That does not mean being disengaged, just avoid being too directive at the start.

There is an exception to the rule of moving slowly at first. Sometimes the new leader is inheriting a crisis situation where emergency actions are needed immediately to save the ship.

Picture a battle where a military general has just been killed in a war that is a nearly hopeless situation. The replacement general needs to take command immediately and direct activities from day one.

In the first year of an assignment, the new leader begins to formulate a plan for how to use the resources and talents to obtain the maximum performance of the unit. Good leaders listen well and make the strategic moves with high collaboration of the people, but the leader is intimately involved and committed to the directions chosen, as are the rest of the people in the unit.

The second year is spent implementing the plan and dealing with any issues that arise from miscalculations or unanticipated setbacks. The second year is a time for doing and observing the results of the actions invented during the first year.

The third year is a critical time because the leader retools the strategy and policies in a process of learning. If leaders are rotated out to another job before this phase is completed, the learning will be minimal and growth will be blunted.

After the third year, the process becomes redundant as the leader seeks to refine what has already been accomplished. As more years are spent on the same job, less and less learning is happening because the leader has been there and done that.

It is not essential that all leaders move after the third year, but as a general rule, it is better to leave them in place for at least that duration.

The next question is what kind of assignments to look for when rotating a leader. Avoid assignments that are parallel in nature, like moving from one production department to another one in the same area.

The major benefit of rotating leaders is that the individual grows by being stretched and forced to operate out of his or her comfort zone. Consider a new assignment in a different country or in a completely different function from the prior assignment.

It is a good idea to have a long term game plan for development of each leader. This requires a lot of planning and dialog. It is a collaborative process that needs attention.

A side benefit of this planning is that the leader being developed has a sense that somebody is watching out for the trajectory of his or her career. Discussions of personal desires and potential opportunities are beneficial because they let the leader know he or she is valued and has the potential to grow.

As you develop a cast of leaders, make sure there is some flow into your organization and some flow out. Try to view leadership development as a flow of talent that is unselfish.

Do not hang on to the best resources just because they are performing well. Give them a chance to move to other areas. If you do, then you will build a reputation of one who grows leaders, which is for sure a positive reflection of your own leadership abilities.


Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at bwhipple@leadergrow.com  585-392-7763. Website www.leadergrow.com   BLOG www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.