Coaching A Tenured Team—The Newer Manager’s Dilemma

Many dedicated managers of tenured teams prefer the exhilaration of coaching a new, enthusiastic and excited new team member. The rookie sponge that hangs onto each brilliant word of wisdom you dispense. If only life were fair. Instead, many managers find themselves coaching highly experienced teams.

Inheriting a deeply seasoned team can understandably be intimidating. What newer manager hasn’t received the professional brush off – “So excited you’re here, I’ll call you if I need anything. And, oh, if I can teach you anything don’t hesitate to reach out.”

While presenting unique challenges, coaching a tenured team offers the new manager a rare leadership development opportunity, if she or he cultivates the emotional fortitude to strategically engage.

The following principles provide trusted guardrails for developing powerful, professional coaching partnerships with your tenured team.

5 Leadership/Coaching Principles And Tips
For Engaging A Tenured Team.

The sacred axiom in the hospitality industry, never lose a customer, applies here. Loyal customers are sacred assets to be guarded. Same for tenured reps. The long-term productivity outputs from a seasoned pro are immense. Deep organizational and marketplace wisdom are not replaceable auto parts.

  • Coaching Tip: Don’t be a quitter! Make a genuine commitment to your organization, yourself, and your team to not easily give up on building trusting, professional relationships. Don’t write off a seasoned employee just because your initial coaching efforts were artfully rebuffed. They want to win. Be patient, consistent, and committed to the relationship. Trust often takes longer to earn with the seasoned performer.

A tenured team’s experience with the revolving-manager-door, including enduring some pretty bad bosses, naturally endows them with a cautious, if not cynical, world view. Lacing up for your first team meeting, the tenured team doesn’t quietly collude and decide to “sabotage our new manager.” However, they may give you pockets of passive or even open resistance, and you should be prepared for that.

  • Coaching Tip: Model exemplary leadership behavior. Don’t take resistance, or aloofness personally. It’s not about you. In fact, be grateful if the team is willing to be honest with you about their feelings. Model tolerance for diversity of opinion. Be curious. Seek first to understand. Model healthy collaboration by respectfully listening, even challenging, others’ points of view. Be steadfast with your vision while creating an open climate for reasonable disagreement.

This military term establishes clarity for what success looks like for an operation. It’s the antidote for vagueness and uncertainty, or wishy-washy, anemic leadership. Like all mature employees, tenured staff welcome strong managers who know their own minds, possess strategic clarity, and yet are modest enough to leverage the seasoned team’s hard earned business intelligence.

  • Coaching Tip: Strive to be a Level 5 Leader (Good to Great, Jim Collins). Embody a fierce resolve for achieving results, while maintaining a steady reservoir of humility.

Many tenured employees, and definitely the disengaged, desire to work in the shadows, often alone. Almost regardless of industry today, sustainable competitive advantage will be awarded to highly collaborative cultures. Renowned design firm IDEO guides the savvy manager’s thinking with credible processes, such as:

“Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the lone genius.”

  • Coaching Tip: Your Commander’s Intent should explicitly spell out how the work will be done. Put the lone wolves on notice that not collaborating is not an option. Have a candid conversation about the difference between micromanaging and effective, hands-on management. Many seasoned team members have never had a great manager, so be patient and understanding, yet resolute and firm.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Doggedly partner with your tenured team members to identify business and leadership opportunities that leverage their deep expertise. Putting their careers, motivational drivers, and leadership aspirations at the center of coaching conversations is a trusted pathway for building trust.

  • Coaching Tip: Be a talent multiplier. Be resourceful. Find, or create, high-value organizational projects that align with your tenured team members’ skillsets and passions. Create formal and informal platforms for innovative customer-centric solutions. Rotate monthly teach-ins where each team member is responsible for teaching a deep competency of theirs that contributes to the team’s IQ.

Tenured teams may, at first, resist your sincere coaching advances. Your genuine commitment to fostering trusted partnerships, and demonstrating respect for their accomplishments and knowledge, will go a long way to earning their respect.

Seasoned pros respect a leader who has boldness of conviction, clarity of thinking, and most importantly delivers observable results. Establish your Commander’s Intent and back it up by being trustworthy, credible, and caring. Lastly, remember—

“You do not lead people, people choose to follow you.”

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring!