Managing an employee for the first time can either be incredibly rewarding or a bit awkward for both parties involved. If your new direct report has a long tenure with the company, you may find the situation especially tricky to navigate.
So, how can you best foster the relationship? As the author John Maxwell has famously said, “People don’t care what you know but need to know that you care.”
The best way to show you care is by listening to and learning from your new direct reports. Doing so will show your team they’re valued resources and trusted employees.
When asked about managing someone new, our Everwise community pitched in with some concrete tips:
Understand their career motivations
If you’re managing a direct report for the first time set out to first understand their motivations within your workplace.
As Francois van der Walt says, “the short answer of where to begin is ‘Why?’ Why are they doing what they’re doing?” Asking about their motivations will show the employee that you’re committed to understanding them, their working style, and their goals.
Hilda Kariuki recommends you get to know the team member as an individual. Get to know “who they are, what matters to them, what inspires them, what they believe are their strengths and what they hope to contribute as part of the team.” Geraldo Ronnie adds “What motivates them? Is it self-gravitation? Is it praise from others? Is it financial?”
Learning your direct report’s answers to the “why?” will allow you to coach them in the right direction. Karen Purkis agrees, “It’s important to understand what their core values and key strengths are, so you can best leverage these character strengths for their achievement.” Doing so is a win-win for your team, both as individuals and as a whole.
Get to know their learning styles
Everyone learns in different ways, but all too often, managers teach their teams in the way they themselves learn best. This can hinder the team’s success.
Once you’ve understood your team member’s motivations, Hakim Myers suggests understanding learning styles next. “One of the first factors I look to get a better understanding of when managing someone new is their learning style and how that could affect our relationship.”
G blednyh agrees, “Some folks hate meetings, others love face-to-face time, and so forth. Knowing these details can ensure a smooth flow of communication.”
Ronnie advises you then look for a few common learning styles within your team, “Are they visual? Hand them a manual and they’ll pick up what’s being taught without further assistance. Are they auditory? Show this type of learner how to do what you need and they will follow suit. Are they kinesthetic? Show this type of learner how to perform the task, and allow them to try it themselves so they can properly learn it.” After understanding how your team members learn best, you’ll be in a better position to successfully teach them something new.
Turn to your direct report as a resource
Because they’ve been at the company for a while, your new team member possesses institutional knowledge you may not yet have. “Whether you are managing up or managing down, the fact that someone has been with the company for a long time demands respect. See if you can get to know about their experiences over lunch. The fact that you take the time do this will prove that you care and win them over,” suggests Harsh Desai.
Kenneth Ng recommends you learn their viewpoints on the organization as a whole and, as mentioned before, let them know you value their thoughts. “Listen to their opinion about the company strategy, company communication, group dynamics and areas for improvement. Be sincere and follow up with a plan on how to incorporate their ideas or an explanation as to why the idea is not taken.” Icela Moreno agrees, adding that you should “ask about what they believe is working well and potential opportunities for improvement.”
By turning the tables and learning from your direct report, they’ll feel respected and trusted by you, setting the stage for a positive working relationship.
Become their advocate
You’ve learned your direct report’s motivations and learning styles. You’ve shown them that they’re a respected, knowledgeable member of the team. Now that you have that information, Michelle Kanan says, use it to their advantage. “I aim to learn about where they want to go next with their career. From day one, I become their advocate. How can I advocate for them if I don’t know where they want to go or what they want to do? Learn that, do your part as their manager to advocate, and you will have an employee that will stick with you.”
Fang Huang recommends getting started by focusing on their personal capabilities, “Maximize and leverage their strengths to the benefit of the company, while minimizing and coaching the weaknesses, to ensure optimal use of resources and time for all involved.”
This last step ensures you put the information you’ve gleaned from your direct report into action. The best way to retain employees is to invest in their career development at your company. By showing your long-tenured employee that you’re committed to doing so, you’ll set the stage for a strong relationship.
In summary, when managing a long-tenured employee:
- Start your relationship off on the right foot by learning about their career motivations
- Understand the type of learner your direct report is
- Turn to them as a knowledgeable resource in the organization
- Become their advocate