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  • Melvin Mathews

The impact of a leader's first meeting

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

Early in my career I was called into a meeting along with all other employees to be addressed by the new head of the company. He announced that he didn't know any of us, but he had this impression that we were all incompetent and had to improve or leave the company. Towards the end of his speech he challenged us to prove his assumptions about us to be wrong. It surprised me that someone who was meeting us for the first time and had limited understanding and appreciation of our contribution was accusing us of incompetence. It was quite a depressing meeting for most of my older colleagues as it meant that all the hard work they had put into the company had suddenly come to mean nothing. It almost felt they had to start from scratch. It was an important lesson in leadership - what not to do as a leader.

As a result, in my career I have watched opening meetings keenly and found some to be virtually the opposite in experience. It would mostly begin with - although I don’t know most members of the team I would like to believe you are all professionals and top performers. Usually the team was told that the onus is now on them to keep up the high standards. Sometimes the team was told not to let the initial opinion of them fall, and if for some reason it fell, then they alone are responsible for it. Each member of the team should therefore ensure that they remain top performers always.

What I observed was that once they were tagged by their leader as top performers they were motivated enough and willing to go to any length to ensure that it remained the status quo. When they realized they had made a mistake or had fallen in their performance, more often than not, they very quickly corrected the situation themselves.

The first meeting a leader has with his team is of vital importance, especially when the leader is not known to the team. It is an important interaction that makes an impact and remains ingrained in the minds of the team. The leaders who reinforce the message that the team is substandard or needs to improve, usually tend to be micro-managers or waiting for their team to make mistakes to fire somebody or use failings to exhort control.

Alternately, the latter set of leaders are inclined to be promoters, facilitators and trainers. Such leaders are generally positive in nature and great motivators.

What do you say on your first meeting? What have your first meetings taught you? How have you felt after a first meeting?

Let me know your thoughts.

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