I just started a new job and inherited a staff used to low standards. How do I snap them into shape without coming off as a drill sergeant?
"You do not lead by hitting people over the head," said Dwight D. Eisenhower. "That's assault, not leadership." In other words, the most effective bosses inspire, rather than simply command, employees to deliver high-quality work.
To attain that, try this approach. First, meet with staffers privately. In these one-to-one conferences, focus on what three things they each like best about working for the company as a whole and for your department in particular. Then, ask each of them what three things they would most like to see changed. (The three-item limit will help them prioritize.) Additionally, inquire about their career aspirations and what they need from you to help them realize their goals.
Second, hold a meeting at which all team members are present. In this meeting, don't criticize past performance; instead, focus on what they can achieve going forward. Summarize what you learned from them individually without violating anyone's confidence.
Finally, based on these findings, talk about your general vision and specific goals for the department. Let staffers know you intend to work with them to achieve individual and collective objectives. By concentrating on their own welfare, you establish a foundation of trust and goodwill that should eventually result in the kind of performance you'll gladly salute.
, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org