Productivity can suffer as people sort out who you are, and what that means for them. Conversations occur around the “water cooler” as people compare notes and pass along anecdotes they have heard about you.
Admittedly, much of what they want to learn about you are not things you discuss often. But they are important questions, as people take their measure of you – just as you are taking your measure of them.
Many of the questions shown below form the basis for unspoken ground rules – the way you like to conduct business. Unfortunately, many ground rules remain unconscious and are only discovered by being broken. Early in my career, I discovered my boss hated email updates only by sending her emails (which I thought was a great way to keep her in the loop). She preferred her staff to pop in her office from time to time with a quick update. (This isn’t to argue in favor of one communication method over the other – the point is we each have preferences, and our team will be more productive more quickly if they know what they are.)
Here’s a list of the kinds of questions that will be on their minds. As you take charge, you might want to be mindful of questions like these, and put your answers on the table early and often. Remember, in the absence of good information, people often make assumptions – and those assumptions can be wrong.
- How do you describe your job?
- What are three or four words that describe you as a person?
- What are three of four words that describe you on the job?
- Personally and professionally, what are your hopes for the coming year?
- Personally and professionally, what concerns you about the coming year?
- In terms of your transition into the new job, what do you have to gain from the change? What do you have to give up?
- As a leader, what are your major strengths as you understand them?
- What aspect(s) of your leadership practice would you like to develop further?
- What are three or four of your core values? How do they play out on the job?
- What’s the hardest thing you have had to do as a leader?
- What are your pet peeves?
- What are your idiosyncrasies?
- How do you like to make important decisions?
- How do you act when you’re angry?
- How will people know if you think something is important?
- How will people know if you’re dissatisfied?
- What are the ground rules about calling you at home or after hours in general?
- If you’ve planted your stake firmly on an issue, and someone wants you to re-address the issue, how should they approach you?
- If someone thinks you’re making a mistake, what should they do?
- How do you prefer to get critical information – orally? In writing?
- What are your professional priorities? How do you go about organizing your time?
- How do you delegate authority and responsibility?
- How do you feel about conflict(s) within the team?
- How do you personally like to handle conflict?
- What do people have to do to earn your trust?
- What are your initial impressions of the team (department, division, or organization)?
Yes, it’s a lot of questions, and the list isn’t exhaustive. But if you’ll take the time to reflect on these questions, and share your answers with your staff, you will mitigate much of the angst and often indirect methods your staff will use to understand what they want to know: who are you, and what’s in it for me?