Erfolgreich durchgeführte Einzelcoachings
people I have been supporting as a coach

Questions of a newly appointed leader: Not specific enough vs. micro-managing... How do I reassemble myself with my new (first) employee? #2

Getting your first employee on the team and becoming a leader can be quite exciting. My dear friend Hannah is currently in this situation, and openly asks me her questions, which I answer publicly in the context of this blog - because we both have the feeling that there might be many more people who would like to be inspired by it 🙂


One of the aspects that currently wakes Hannah up at night sometimes - 5 weeks before the new employee comes on board, i.e. her first day of work - is the question of a balanced dosage. On the one hand, she fears that she will be far too little specific, and on the other hand, she is worried that she will be a so-called micro-manager, who will give her new, yet experienced colleague, who joins this company for the first time, too little freedom, and therefore, of course, will actually experience too little relief herself. 

For me, this is a really good question, because finding the balance between these two apparent poles is perhaps not as easy as it looks at first glance. And at the same time, I have a fairly easy-to-implement solution at hand that has already helped many people who have taken on new team members as "newly-appointed" supervisors 🙂


What makes this question so complex?

Well, I could quote model after model on the maturity of employees, on leadership styles, and so on and so forth. For me, the crucial point is: There is not really an answer, because 

  • I can be too little specific in exactly the same matter for one person, because this person has no experience in this area, and appear to another person as a micro-manager, because they might possess even greater expertise in this domain than I do...
  • and I can be too little specific to the same person in one matter (if they still have little background information or experience in this area) and in another aspect of the joint work intervene way too much to the liking of this person, because the experience is greater here and not much instruction / concretization is needed or even desired. 


So if it depends so much on my counterpart, and their experience, and is less a fundamental decision about my approach - what do I do with it?


My recommendation as a coach...

... is to discuss exactly this with the respective employees. And to develop a common culture of dialogue that supports the achievement of the appropriate degree of freedom and concretization that is necessary for a working environment that is perceived as healthy by both sides, if necessary on an ad hoc or case-by-case basis. 

How do I manage to develop this culture of dialogue, especially with a new colleague whom I do not yet know or with whom I have not yet worked with?

So-called 90-day plans, also known as "the first 100 days" or "three-month plans" have proven their worth. What we know as a strategy from politics, when a high-ranking politician announces exactly such a plan upon taking office, can help us - together with the new team member - to align our expectations, to promote regular exchange, to conduct reality checks (whether someone is taking on too much / too little for the first weeks / months, beyond expectations), i.e. to establish exactly this culture of dialog. 


How do you start such a three-months plan? 

1) Regardless of whether the new employee only starts in 5 weeks, they've just had their first day of work, or have already been in the company for 3 weeks - it is never too late to provide an invitation to such a plan. The employee who is coming soon can then already actively deal with it, the employee who is just starting can immediately design a helpful framework for him- or herself, in which other onboarding activities are also well integrated (perhaps even with the support of so-called mentors / buddies / colleagues), and an employee that has already been there for 3 weeks, can already use these first three weeks as a reality check (either retroactively or simply for the next 3 months). 

2) Such a three-month / 90-day plan can never be one-sided, but lives and dies with the involvement of both parties, i.e. the supervisor and the employee. So, as a supervisor, think about what your expectations are, where support might be needed, what good reality checks could be - this makes the whole onboarding situation easier and gives you a good overview 🙂 

3) As a manager/leader you can decide for yourself what exactly makes sense in terms of content, or you can collect ideas from the team for inspiration. Such a plan does not have to be a secret, but can be a well-structured joint procedure that will also prove itself in the future, so that further onboardings can perhaps be even better. 

4) Make an agreement with the new employee on the frequency and format of the meeting: Do you want to meet briefly every week (5, 10, 15 minutes), perhaps over coffee or tea, and make it more of an ongoing process? Or does it suit you better to have a longer meeting every two weeks or once a month, giving the space for something more to happen in between? Are these appointments always fixed, or can they be rescheduled? Are they virtual appointments, or physical, or as needed? Is there a written document, an overview table or oral reports? What is important to you as a leader? What is more in line with your leadership style and the way you want to be involved in the future? The way you shape this process will shape the way you work together in the future - it's a great opportunity, and one that can be considered a bit more carefully. 

5) And then there´s only the implementation. What qualities are still important to you in this process and for the way you shape the collaboration in the team? The structured procedure within the framework of this 3-month plan allows you to look precisely at these qualities and to base further collaboration on them. This makes onboarding not just a hassle and time investment, as I get to hear from time to time, but your very first opportunity to actively shape collaboration along your values.


Have fun with it 🙂