I have just recently started a new job as at a software company in the international education industry.
My role is broadly defined as growing the engineering team and uplifting their overall capability. There is some great new challenges for me but also enough similarities to my strong past experiences that I am confident that I will be able to add tonnes of value. Or as Duke Nukem said:
Despite my confidence I forgot a cardinal rule of working in a team, especially when you are new: communicate early and often to build trust.
It was early on my third day. I'd settled in and whipped up a rather large todo list for the day. The first two days had involved a mixed bag: some deep dives into the main subject domain, some self-driven exploration, and some good discussions with various people. This is how I learn. I immerse myself, go deep, poke around in various areas, gather as much information as possible and just let it all sit in my head and coallesce over time.
But by the third day I was ready to do something bigger. I had some ideas and was ready to get stuck in and remind these guys exactly why they hired me. Then I got this message from my manager:
In all my eagerness to get stuck in I had forgotten to communicate my plan. It was a good reminder that in order to be successful in a leadership position you communicate early and often to build trust.
Early communication means telling someone what they want to know BEFORE they ask for it. Hopefully before they know they want to know it.
In other words; be proactive.
Otherwise people might be wondering what the hell you are doing, why you are there, and whether they made a huge mistake bringing you in the team.
I hope that wasn't going through the mind of my manager but hope isn't a very good strategy here. Instead, after whipping up my todo list for the day I should have sent it to him and asked if there was anything else I needed to focus on. Zero perecent chance of doubt, one hundred percent badass.
The best bedfellow for communicating early is to communicate often. That means that once you have started with good communiation the follow-up plan is simple: keep it up.
Frequent recurring communication builds a habit and lets people know what to expect from you.
Don't worry that you might be communicating too much. This is rarely an actual problem. What most poeple think is 'too much' communication is probably not even close to the right amount.
Note: In all my career experience I have seen only one example of someone communicating 'too much' but that is better saved for another story. The point is that it is extremely rare to even come close to over-communicating.
No-one is going to fault you for communicating often.
Communicate early AND often to build trust
If you build a habit of communicating early and often then people will trust you more.
There are lots of tricks and techniques all over the internet that work on improving your communication style, but those are just the cream on top. You need to have the basics right.
Good Communication formula: Early + Often = Trust
This concept is so simple but rarely is it followed. Most managers I have observed tend to adhere to the oldschool methodology that states 'information is power' and therefore restrict their communication.
Others appear to understand that sharing information amongst the team is a great idea but then they just expect it to somehow happen magically. This doesn't work.
Leaders must be explicit in their communication. If you want people to trust you and respect your work then you need to communicate early and often.
Build trust by communicating well in ALL directions
The final point is that good communication is not just a tool for ensuring your manager, or the people above you in the hierarchy, see you as valuable. In fact I'd say that upwards is probably the least important direction to focus on when thinking about communication.
As a leader, it is how you communicate to your team and other stakeholders (i.e. downards and sideways) that really matters.
Communication to your team should be a top priority for any leader. People generally want to know what is happening. They want to know what their leader is doing, when something challenging is coming their way, when problems are found, when targets are met, when the CEO went out with a client and woke up nude in a...ok maybe not that.
But they want to know pretty much everything else. Leaders assume their people want to know more rather than less.
Summary (for the lazy/fast scrollers)
Good communication is the number one way to build a solid relationship with your team.
Trust is one of the core principles that underlies any high performing team and trust is built through good communication.
Communicate early and often to build trust.