Building Trust in a New Team

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At many times in my career I was the new kid on the block. That first morning on your way to a new job you feel the butterflies in your stomach. The unknown lies before you. Starting fresh is exciting and intimidating and that is very normal indeed.

As PAs we are used to being in control, knowing what to do and who to call, so it is my opinion that changing jobs or departments can be extra stressful for us.

An essential part of the onboarding process for you will be to get a grip on your daily tasks and become operational as soon as possible – but after that the real work begins. As a PA it is essential in your role that you have the trust of your team and your boss, but as we know trust is earned and not simply given.

I feel I am uniquely positioned to help you build trust in a new team because I have had to do it 10 times in the last 13 years (thankfully most of the moves were internally at my current company).

So what have I learnt?

Top tips for building trust:

1 Try your best to adjust and do not compare the new team/boss with the old
Many of us experience a bit of buyer’s regret when we change jobs or teams, in most cases it passes quickly. We remember our old boss and team through rose-coloured glasses and tend to compare our new situation negatively. This is one of the worst things you can do in a new role. If you feel it, at least don’t verbalise it! You will alienate your new team members and create an “us and them” scenario which will not contribute to building a relationship, let alone trust.

2 Do not live in the shadow or the legend of the previous PA
Unfortunately the comparison works both ways. You may be told how astoundingly brilliant the last PA was and how much they miss her/him or how incredibly useless the person was. They may try to guilt you into doing things by saying that the last PA did X or Y. Do not onboard any of this, it is not useful to you and will make you feel negative. When a team member starts up, you simply say that you are different to the previous PA and you feel the comparison/discussion is redundant. Be strong and be patient. This is natural for the team – a PA becomes the cornerstone of an office and people come to rely on them for physical and sometimes even emotional support. I know it is tough but be compassionate with them; they are also having to deal with change and may be struggling with it.

3 Be professional from day one
Make sure that people get the right impression from the start, you cannot undo a first impression and people tend to remember and categorise you accordingly. Be on time, dress appropriately and ensure that your working area is up to code. If you inherit a grubby office, start sorting it as soon as possible. Set the bar high: people are attracted to and impressed by achievers who strive for excellence.

4 Be consistent and set clear boundaries
What you allow early on in the relationship with a new team or boss will persist. Once the boss is used to you going to buy him lunch or fetching his dry cleaning it is no longer a favour – it becomes your job. Also be consistent and fair in the way you treat people. Don’t play favourites! If people feel you treat them all fairly they will trust you to do the right thing and act in the best interest of your boss, the team and your company.

5 Be sincere, ethical and discreet
Always keep a confidence. Do the right thing and be as real as you can. This behavior resonates with everyone and trust will naturally arise if you apply this daily without any real effort from your side.

6 Communicate and network
Not everyone is as outgoing as I am, but you must make an effort. You need to greet people, introduce yourself and make sure that you engage with others. This is the only way to get into the swing of things. Make sure you meet the other PAs in the company or division. Find out who you need to call for what. A bit of friendliness really does go a long way and you will be surprise how welcoming and supportive people are when you give them a fair chance.

7 Ask questions and give feedback
I must confess I don’t like not knowing something (this is normal for most PAs) but over the years I have come to realize if you don’t ask you will never know. So ask! Don’t struggle or suffer in silence. Sometimes showing others you are a bit vulnerable helps them to relate to you better and makes them feel valued because you need them. Another essential thing is to give feedback. If something doesn’t work, is uncomfortable or inappropriate you should speak up.

8 See a task through to completion and always “close the loop”
Make sure that others see you as reliable. If you commit you must complete! When assigned a task, ensure that you take ownership and manage it end to end. Get the answers, secure the submissions and don’t just say I asked for it ¬- chase it, get it! Be the kind of person who works independently and does not need babysitting. If you don’t, your boss will do her best to think up creative and complicated stuff for you to do to keep you out of mischief, so be responsible and manage yourself and your time.

9 Under commit and over deliver
Promise less than you are able to produce and exceed expectations! Nothing makes you look better than doing more than expected in less time. I have a technical term for that, it is called the “Ta-da Factor”. On the other hand if you make big promises that you cannot honour you look like a fool!

Remember life happens, so if you cannot honour a commitment at least communicate and negotiate with the other party. Don’t just let people down.

10 Be the protector and advocate for your own brand
Your brand (as a PA) is valuable; it is linked with your ability to earn and to gain additional opportunities. Be careful how you manage your own brand and be sure to celebrate your own success. What is the point of being amazingly brilliant if no one knows it? Clap hands for yourself and enjoy your own achievements. By acknowledging publically what you can do or have achieved, people will start to see you as a high potential PA with promise. After all, people trust people who can get the job done and who have confidence in themselves.

I hope that these few simple tips will help you establish, build and grow trust in your working life.

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About Author

Anel Martin

Anel Martin is a multi-award winning ex-Personal Assistant who now works as a full time trainer. She has extensive experience in the profession and is widely considered an industry expert. Anel is also one of the Directors of the Isipho Admin Bursary (www.isiphoadmin.org.za). She is the author of The Executive Secretary Guide to Building a Powerful Personal Brand, available now on Amazon.

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