5 Keys to Setting the Tone as a New Leader

Whether you’re a first-time leader or an experienced manager in a new role, the first 100 days are critical. People are watching you closely which can be intimidating but it also can be used to your advantage.

“As a leader you set the tone for your entire team.” Colin Powell

Setting the tone is imperative during these early days. Here are five things you can do to let people know what type of leader you are.

Create a buzz. Do something to get everyone talking. Make it extreme so the message is clear. This is something I always do. In one manufacturing plant, I had the maintenance team paint over all the signs for the reserved parking spaces for managers, including mine. The message was simple, there is no special treatment for managers. We are in this together.

Set the example. Your minimum behaviors will be your team’s maximum performance. If you expect people to be on time, you need to be on time. If you expect managers to get out of their offices, you need to be out of your office. If you expect people to wear their safety equipment, you need to wear your safety equipment. It’s simple. Just as children follow a parent’s lead, your team will take cues from you.

“The reality is that the only way change comes is when you lead by example.” Anne Wojcicki

Signal your priorities. What’s important to you will be seen by your team. If you spend the first hour of the day on your computer and not with your team, they will see that. They will assume they are not as important as your e-mail. If you spend a meeting constantly looking at your phone, they will assume their presentation is not a priority for you.

“You are the leader and the troops will reflect your emotions.” Colin Powell

Establish the mood. We all know attitude is contagious. Regardless how you feel, you need to be upbeat and optimistic around your team. You still need to be empathetic when you have serious issues to deal with, but if you are consistently upbeat and in good spirits, the team will demonstrate the same. In the same respect, if you are quiet, unresponsive, angry, abrasive, sarcastic, or hidden, the life will get sucked out of your team.

“See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk the talk, make yourself visible and accessible.” Bill Marriott

Be open, available, and visible. Go to where your people are. Greet them every day. Show interest by actively listening and being open. Engage them on the subjects they care about. Your team will see you care and are interested in their thoughts and opinions. They will see you as open and willing to listen. They will be more likely to share their true feelings about the challenges they face.

Setting the tone early is critical. All eyes are on you as the new leader, so make it count. Create a buzz, set an example, show your priorities, establish the mood, and be present. These activities will let your team know what kind of leader you are and what your expectations are. This will help you down the line when you need their help to tackle the tough issues.

To learn more about how respected leaders set the tone, read Colin Powell’s leadership book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.

Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

8 thoughts on “5 Keys to Setting the Tone as a New Leader

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  1. Hello Jon, Great post and helpful insights on setting the tone as a new leader. I’ve enjoyed reading this post and gained helpful insights. Thank you. Colin Powell’s quotes are inspiring!

    Sheik

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  2. Hello Jon,

    Jessica and I really enjoy ready your posts. I look forward to applying many of the concepts you share now that I am finished with school.. Finally!!! Hope you and the family have been doing well.

    Like

  3. Dear Jon,
    A lot of what is mentioned in this post I was fortunate to experience first hand while working at Duty Free Shoppers in Hawaii. Chuck Feney and Robert Miller, the owners were the very first individuals to make the comment about “not being in the office”. They were firm believes that if you do not interact with the clients, you will not know what their needs really are. Although I worked in Visual Merchandising, it was their positive work ethics that made my team so successful in presenting quality items for the customer.

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