I recently had lunch with a friend who was just moved into a church staff role very similar to mine. He sat me down and asked one of the wisest questions one could ask, "What should I do first?"
Suddenly a flood of memories from the past 7 years rushed into my mind. In one of those "blink of an eye" moments I recalled all of the things I had done wrong and the few things I managed to somehow get right! What was most important for me to tell my friend? How do I boil it down to just one thing?
Before I realized I had even formed a thought, I blurted out an answer to him. My reactionary response was a simple nugget of wisdom that gets lost in the frenzy of adjusting to a new role:
"The most important thing you do for the first year is build trust with your leader."
We spent an hour or so talking about this idea. It has been rattling in my heart since.
Any time you find yourself in a new role, resist the urge to be impressive or make a splash. Your main job is to be seen as trustworthy. Trust earns long term influence.
Below are 3 keys to building trust your first day in a new position...and every day after that too!
Ask more questions than you give answers.
Start a new role by telling all of your direct reports that they are still in charge for a season. During this time you need to watch, learn and ask great questions. When you take the reigns as boss, you will be given trust from your team along with the authority your title carries.
With your boss ask questions to discover what matters most to them. Find out the pain points they have in the organization and solve them. Be willing to shelve your agenda to tend to theirs. In meetings with superiors ask questions to determine if they are ready to receive the agenda you have for them. If not, your agenda can wait because they are not at a place to hear it. Discover what is on your leaders' mind and make that your new agenda. It begins by leading with questions.
Find out what landed you in the role you are in, and be more of that.
Landing a promotion brings pressure to prove your worth. The danger is we lose some of ourself in trying to live up to this new job. Something about you was deemed worthy of this new position, do not forsake that. Lean into who you are rather than what you can do. What you can do will always need to evolve, who you are should stay consistent.
When I stepped into my position on our staff I asked my Lead Pastor, "What about me made you feel comfortable trusting me with this?" To my surprise he said one reason was my ability to process things without getting emotionally attached to what we talked about; I could separate my feelings from the issue. With me he had the drama free guarantee. Had I rushed in and tried to fight for my agenda immediately I would have failed. Once I found out what he trusted about me, I leaned into it even more.
Speak fewer words.
I heard Andy Stanley say that as he was promoted through the years he would speak fewer words at each level. He cut his word count in half each time. Further down in the organization he felt free to speak at will. In higher levels of leadership he understood that his words could actually impede others from contributing.
When you speak less your words matter more. Leaders want weighty words rather than many words. It is a sign of confidence to speak less. It displays trust in your team when your silence allows them to discover a solution on their own. Could you figure it out faster? Probably. Could they figure it out better? Who knows if you won't be quiet and let them try! Silence exudes confidence and confidence earns trust.
The next time you find yourself moving into a new role remember that your goal is to build trust. Every day after that first day, remember to keep building trust then too. You can never earn too much!
Keep Leading Bravely!