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How a new boss can earn their team’s respect more quickly



boss manager meeting
expect to be respected immediately.

ter Burg/Flickr

  • It takes time for a new boss to
    earn respect.
  • Expert-backed strategies for speeding up the process
    include asking for feedback, focusing on strengths, and
    learning what makes someone excel in your
  • Remember: You won’t gain your team’
    respect just because you’re in a position of authority. You
    have to show that you can do the job well.

Art Markman knows how Day One as a new boss typically goes.

Unless you have a track record of major accomplishments that
speak for themselves — and sometimes even then — “everyone is
standing there waiting to see what you’re going to do,” said
a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Inevitably, he added, there will be people “who either wanted
that position for themselves or had their money on a different
candidate.” That is to say, in his words, “you always have a
certain number of people that you’re trying to convince to go
along with you.”

The process of convincing them, and of earning your team’s
respect, can be long, arduous, and at times even awkward. But
it’s hardly impossible. In fact, social scientists and leadership
experts have identified a few key strategies that can help hasten
the process.

Show that you can do the job well — then show that you’re likable

Whether you’re interacting with your subordinates or with any new
acquaintances, research suggests that you’re being evaluated on
two dimensions:
warmth and competence
. While both pieces are important, as a
new leader, you’ll want to display competence first, said

Adam Galinsky
, a professor of business at the Columbia
Business School.

In other words, make it a priority to show that you can do the
job well — and only then show some vulnerability, or humanity.
You can accomplish the first part relatively quickly by following
through on your promises and on what people ask you for, said
Markman. “Under-promise and over-deliver.”

And as for warmth? Experts told the
Harvard Business Review
about the importance of forging
personal connections with employees.

“Do something that makes them believe that you are one of them,”
Jim Dougherty, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of
Management and former software CEO told HBR. Maybe you host
brown-bag lunches, or simply chat about common interests.
Dougherty said the goal is to signal that “even though you are
the boss, in the end you’re all in this together.”

Don’t aim for perfection

Unfortunately, too many eager new leaders fall into the same

“You’re in a new position and you don’t want to reveal that you
don’t have a clue what you’re doing,”  said Joe Folkman,
president and co-founder at leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman. “So what do you
do? Well, you certainly don’t ask questions and you certainly
don’t ask for feedback. And that is the deadly problem.”

Folkman said most of the executives he’s worked with assume that
asking for feedback would make people doubt their competence —
when, in fact, Harvard Business School research has
shown just the opposite
. “There’s an absolutely clear
correlation between people who ask for and act on feedback and
their perceived effectiveness,” Folkman added.

Remember though: Your goal is hardly to be perceived as flawless.
“A lot of people think that they need to perfect. There can’t be
anything they’re not good at,” Folkman said. Frankly, they’re

Zenger Folkman has assessed leaders on 16 distinct competencies
and found that managers who excel at three competencies — any
three, doesn’t matter which — fall in the top 20% of leaders.

In other words, a leader needs to discern “what it is they are
bringing to the party that’s exceptional” — according to the
feedback they receive — and double down on those strengths. “The
funny thing is that if you’re good at a few things, people
keeping looking past [your deficiencies],” Folkman said.

Learn what makes someone excel here

Aside from the necessary introspection, becoming a leader
requires understanding what makes someone excel in this
particular organization.

Galinsky offered an example based on research conducted by
Cameron Anderson at the University of California, Berkeley. In
2008, Anderson co-authored
a study
that found employees’ personality traits predict
their influence in an organization, even beyond factors like job

Specifically, in engineering firms, conscientiousness — i.e.
working hard and being organized — is a highly valued trait,
while in consulting firms, extroversion — i.e. outgoingness —
matters more.

Your goal should be to discern what particular traits and
behaviors are valued in your organization. Galinsky said you can
“speed up” the process of earning respect “if you can match the
cues that you’re emanating with the [traits] that are valued in
that group.”

Galinsky said you can also find out which individuals are already
respected in the organization, and get some of those people to
advocate on your behalf (assuming you actually know them and have
a solid relationship).

Perhaps most importantly, new leaders need to be patient. Whether
you know your predecessor or whether you’ve simply heard stories
about the person, it’s almost always intimidating to step into
their shoes.

“It just takes some time as people learn trust is not an
immediate thing,” Folkman said. “You don’t give people trust
because of their position,” he added. “You give people trust
because they earn it.”

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