Sunday 15 September 2019

How can I make a good first impression when I take charge of my accountancy team?

Leadership Advice

Niall Murray

Query: I Have worked my way up the ladder in a small accountancy firm in Dublin but have just been appointed to a new mid-management role with a much larger accountancy company. I am very excited about the new job as I am returning to my home county, but, although I have more than 12 years' experience, this will be my first time managing a team of 10 and I am quite nervous and want some advice as to how to make a good first impression.

Answer: Congratulations on your new job - it sounds like it is a great move for you.

However, I can totally understand your mixed feelings. Starting a new job - even if you are going into a management role - can sometimes be like your first day at school. Here are some tips to help you settle into the role more easily:

1 First impressions last: Arrive on time, and be friendly and enthusiastic, without being over the top. Show everyone that you are happy to be there and are looking forward to working with them. Get to meet as many people as possible. Have your lunch or coffee in the canteen.

Learn people's names as quickly as possible - especially your new team members, who might be wary of a new boss. Try to learn a bit about them and be as helpful as you can to allow them to come to terms with a new leader.

2 Listen, Listen and then Listen some more: Set up informal one to ones with your new team. Get to know a little bit about them especially their interests outside of work.

Be aware that one of them may have been an internal applicant and may feel aggrieved or disappointed that they didn't get the role.

Get to understand their role and where it fits into the department. Ask for their suggestions on what works well in the department and what might need to change. This is the single most important piece of advice I would give to any new manager. Getting your team on board is critical and we have often seen the mistake of a new manager coming into a role with lots of new ideas and trying to implement lots of changes fast.

Failing to get the team on board will make change almost impossible. Involve your team in any changes you want or need to make.

3 Know your job: While you are a manager and will lead others, you will also have a boss and they will have certain expectations for you. You need to know what these are.

You will also need to learn what parts of your job are the most important so that you can prioritise your tasks when under pressure with deadlines and delegate correctly to your team members.

Have regular conversations with your boss and take responsibility for setting those meetings. By doing this you can ensure you both are 100pc clear on expectations and the scope of your new role.

4 Understand the culture: This will be of particular significance to you as you are coming from a small company into a larger one.

Most larger companies will have quite a defined culture structure so be aware of it.

Learn everything you can about the company's policies and procedures. Observe how people interact with one another and how they go about their work. Talk to everybody - your new colleagues will be a great source of information. It is up to you to adapt to their way of doing things.

5 Find a Mentor: Mentors might be seen as only for those further down the chain of command but they can be of real importance to those in management positions too.

A mentor can give you an inside perspective on what it takes to get ahead and can be an excellent source of knowledge and advice.

A mentor should be someone you have a natural rapport with and is at a more senior position in the company. They will help you develop your career and make the most of your opportunity with the company.

Having a mentor to guide you is a huge advantage. If you don't feel comfortable with a mentor inside the company, try and find one in another company or industry who will be able to help you with settling into your new role.

6 Commit to your new job: Leave your old job in the past where it belongs. Don't repeatedly refer to it in conversation, whether you are being positive or negative.

There is nothing worse than hearing someone - especially if you are their manager - constantly saying: "That's not how we did things in my last company."

Finally, remember that your new employers chose you to be a team leader as they felt that you had the ability to fulfil that role.

Have that same confidence in yourself. Also, remember to be patient. It takes time to settle in to a new job, so embrace the challenge and get stuck in.

  • Niall Murray is managing director of Collins McNicholas Recruitment and HR Services Group, which has offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Limerick.

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