If you’ve been a leader for any length of time at all you have probably had the assignment of taking over an existing team or department, inheriting a staff you did not develop and a team you did not build.
There are some important things you can do to help ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible between you and the outgoing leadership. I have done this on several levels in my career but each time these 6 principles gave me the ability to create a seamless transition, achieve great results, and succeed at a very high level with my new team.
- Sit with every single team member that reports to you, and every team member that reports to THEM. You need to get to know your team and the best way you can do that is to sit with them face to face and then sit with the folks that they interact with each day to really understand the leadership culture.
- Everyone knows you are the new leader. Address the critical issues issues that need attention but resist the urge to lay down new directives or policy in the first 30 days.
- Be accessible to your team; every day and all day, but especially in the weeks following the transition. Don’t become too busy for your team. They will will shut down and your progress will be slow or non-existent. Be involved and stay involved.
- Don’t assume you really know what is happening within the team based on hearsay. Take the time to see the situation for yourself. Ask questions of your team all the time. Show them you want to learn. Show them you care. Dig deep to really understand what the history of your team is. Until you truly understand the dynamics of your team you won’t be able to get the results you want.
- Make sure you understand who the top performers are and who the low performers are on your new team. Don’t take anyone else’s word for who your key players are. Once when taking over a team (from some really low performers) almost everyone I was told needed to go ended up being excellent and folks I was told were great didn’t want to do the hard work of getting better and ended up moving on.
- Identify future leaders on your team that may not be on anybody else’s radar. By digging in and having great ongoing dialogue with everyone on the team you will meet folks who need mentoring, and an opportunity. By being the leader that develops future talent you are seeding the future success of your organization.
There can be nothing more daunting then taking over a new team and undertaking a new challenge but it can also be one of the most gratifying times of your career if you approach it in a thoughtful, positive, and organized manner. Execute well and you will create a legacy of outstanding leadership that will follow you throughout your career.