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New Team Leader or Manager? Key Factors for Success in the First 60 Days

A job promotion to lead or manage a team for the first time is an exciting and pivotal moment in your career. However, stepping into your first leadership position can be daunting, especially in the first 60 days when your actions set the tone for your tenure. To help you navigate this transition smoothly, here are clear factors to establish yourself and set yourself up for success, along with examples of both successful and unsuccessful applications of each step.

1. Understand Your New Role and Responsibilities

Step 1: Clarify Expectations

  • Talk to Your Boss: Schedule a meeting with your boss to understand their expectations, priorities and success metrics for your role. Clarify any ambiguities and ensure you’re aligned on goals and timelines.

  • Successful Example: Thabo scheduled a detailed meeting with his boss during his first week. He asked specific questions about his boss’s expectations and priorities, which helped him align his team's goals with the company's strategic objectives.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Richard assumed he knew what his boss expected and didn't have a dedicated meeting. This led to misaligned priorities and confusion about his performance metrics, causing delays in project milestones.

Step 2: Review Job Description and Objectives

  • Revisit the Job Description: Go over your job description again. This will help you understand the official responsibilities and any key areas that need your immediate attention.

  • Successful Example: Zanele carefully reviewed her job description and identified critical areas that required immediate attention. This proactive approach allowed her to address key issues early and set a positive tone for her leadership.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Dean skimmed through his job description and missed crucial responsibilities. His oversight led to unmet deadlines and a perception that he was not fully engaged in his new role.


2. Get to Know Your Team

Step 1: One-on-One Meetings

  • Meet Individually with Team Members: Schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member. Use these sessions to learn about their roles, strengths, challenges, and career aspirations. Ask open-ended questions and listen actively.

  • Successful Example: Ayesha met individually with each team member, listening to their concerns and understanding their aspirations. This built trust and helped her identify areas where she could support her team better.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Pieter skipped individual meetings, preferring to observe from a distance. This approach created a disconnect with his team, making them feel undervalued and unheard.

Step 2: Observe and Listen

  • Spend Time Observing: Take time to observe team dynamics, work processes, and communication styles. This will provide valuable insights into how the team operates and where improvements might be needed.

  • Successful Example: Lerato spent her first few weeks observing team interactions and workflows. She identified communication gaps and introduced new tools that improved efficiency.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Johan rushed to implement changes without understanding the existing team dynamics. His hasty decisions disrupted workflows and led to resistance from team members.



3. Build Trust and Credibility

Step 1: Communicate Openly

  • Be Transparent: Share your vision, management style and expectations with your team. Transparency builds trust and sets a foundation for open communication.

  • Successful Example: Andrew held an introductory meeting where he shared his vision and expectations. His transparency reassured the team and fostered an open dialogue.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Sipho kept his plans vague, leading to uncertainty and speculation among team members. This lack of transparency eroded trust and hindered team cohesion

Step 2: Show Empathy and Support

  • Be Approachable: Show genuine interest in your team members' well-being. Offer support and be available to address their concerns.

  • Successful Example: Fatima made it a point to check in regularly with her team, addressing their concerns promptly and showing empathy towards their challenges. This approach built strong relationships and boosted morale.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Gareth was rarely available for his team, prioritising his own tasks over their needs. This created a perception of indifference, leading to low morale and disengagement.



4. Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Step 1: Define Team Objectives

  • Set SMART Goals: Work with your team to set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) goals. Ensure everyone understands their individual and collective roles in achieving these objectives.

  • Successful Example: Jerome collaborated with his team to set SMART goals that were aligned with company objectives. This clarity and involvement motivated the team to work cohesively towards common targets.

  • Unsuccessful Example:  Kumesh set vague goals without team input, leading to confusion and a lack of direction. The team struggled to meet expectations due to unclear objectives.

Step 2: Establish Ground Rules

  • Create a Team Charter: Develop a team charter that outlines roles, responsibilities and ground rules for collaboration. This helps in setting clear expectations and reducing misunderstandings.

  • Successful Example: Jenny involved her team in creating a team charter, which included roles, responsibilities and collaboration guidelines. This fostered a sense of ownership and clarity.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Nomsa did not establish any ground rules, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts over roles and responsibilities within the team.


5. Communicate Effectively

Step 1: Regular Updates

  • Hold Regular Meetings: Establish a cadence for team meetings, such as weekly or bi-weekly check-ins. Use these meetings to discuss progress, address issues and celebrate successes.

  • Successful Example: Sanele implemented weekly check-in meetings where team members could discuss their progress and any roadblocks. This regular communication kept everyone aligned and informed.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Ingrid avoided regular meetings, preferring ad-hoc updates. This lack of structured communication led to misaligned efforts and missed opportunities for collaboration.

Step 2 Open Channels of Communication

  • Encourage Feedback: Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback. This promotes continuous improvement and innovation.

  • Successful Example: Devi created an anonymous feedback system and encouraged open discussions in team meetings. This openness led to several process improvements and a more engaged team.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Henry rarely sought feedback and discouraged open discussions, which stifled innovation and made team members feel undervalued.


6. Identify Quick Wins

Step 1: Early Successes

  • Target Quick Wins: Identify and tackle low-hanging fruits—tasks or projects that can be quickly and easily completed. Achieving these early successes can boost team morale and build momentum.

  • Successful Example: Bongani identified a few minor process changes that were implemented quickly and had immediate positive impacts. These early wins boosted team confidence and momentum.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Jade focused on long-term projects without seeking quick wins, which delayed visible progress and failed to generate early momentum for the team.


7. Invest in Relationships

Step 1: Build a Support Network

  • Connect with Peers: Establish relationships with other managers and leaders in your organization. They can offer valuable advice, support, and collaboration opportunities.

  • Successful Example: Solly regularly attended cross-departmental meetings and networking events, building a strong support network of peers and mentors.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Diana isolated herself from other managers, missing out on valuable advice and support that could have helped her navigate her new role more effectively.

Step 2: Seek a Mentor

  • Find a Mentor: Identify someone within or outside your organization who can provide guidance and support as you navigate your new role.

  • Successful Example: Thandi sought out a mentor who had extensive experience in her field. Regular mentorship sessions helped her avoid common pitfalls and gain valuable insights.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Bradley did not seek a mentor and relied solely on his own judgment, leading to repeated mistakes and slower professional growth.


8. Focus on Personal Development

Step 1: Continuous Learning

  • Invest in Your Growth: Take advantage of training programs, workshops, and reading materials that can enhance your leadership skills. Continuous learning is key to staying effective and relevant.

  • Successful Example: Pravin enrolled in leadership development courses and actively participated in webinars, which enhanced his skills and knowledge.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Chloe neglected her personal development, assuming her current skills were sufficient. This complacency hindered her ability to adapt to new challenges.

Step 2: Reflect and Adapt

  • Self-Reflection: Regularly reflect on your experiences, decisions, and feedback. Adapt your approach as needed to better meet the needs of your team and organization.

  • Successful Example: Vusi kept a leadership journal and regularly reflected on his actions and their outcomes, making necessary adjustments to improve his effectiveness.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Susan rarely reflected on her leadership practices, leading to repeated mistakes and a lack of growth in her management capabilities.


9. Celebrate and Recognize

Step 1: Acknowledge Achievements

  • Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate individual and team achievements. This reinforces positive behaviour and motivates the team to continue performing well.

  • Successful Example: Themba frequently celebrated team milestones and individual achievements, boosting morale and fostering a positive work environment.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Kim rarely acknowledged her team’s successes, which led to feelings of underappreciation and decreased motivation.

Step 2: Show Appreciation

  • Express Gratitude: Regularly thank your team for their hard work and contributions. Appreciation goes a long way in building a positive and productive work environment.

  • Successful Example: Naledi made it a habit to personally thank her team members for their efforts, which created a supportive and motivated team culture.

  • Unsuccessful Example: Greg seldom expressed gratitude, leading his team to feel undervalued and less committed to their work.



The first 60 days as a new team leader or manager are critical for laying the foundation for your success. By following these key factors for new team leaders’ or managers’ success—clarifying expectations, building relationships, setting clear goals, communicating effectively and focusing on continuous improvement, you can establish yourself as a capable and trusted leader. Remember, leadership is a journey, not a destination. Stay flexible, keep learning, and always strive to be the best leader you can be. Good luck!


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