Leading any team is not easy, but when you are inheriting an existing team it can be even more difficult. One of the mistakes a lot of leaders make when starting in a new role with a new team is to rush into delivery mode. As the saying goes, only fools rush in.
A good leader needs to take time to see, hear and feel how the team operates. A good leader establishes opportunities to take it all in, to be in receiver mode.
Next time you are in the position of starting a new role in a new company, or new department, go in slowly, with a desire and curiosity to understand the culture, the pulse, the heartbeat of the team. To get a feel for the ebbs and flows.
Each team and business works at it’s own unique pace. Some are really fast, some are slower. A leader from a fast-[aced business may be mistaken for assuming the productivity levels are low in a new organization if the pace is slower, where in fact it could be more productive with a happier, more engaged employee team, who make fewer mistakes operating at a comfortable pace, with plenty of time for work-life-balance.
A good leader is just as open to learning new ways of doing things from his or her new team than simply going in ready to make a mark and start leading the way he/ she knows how.
As leaders entering new environments, we shouldn’t put so much emphasis on our ability to reshape an organisation. Resist the urge to prove yourself straight away by introducing new and innovative ways of doing things. Instead, take the time to fully absorb the way things are currently done and how effective they are; to clearly identify what the challenges are and to get feedback from people within the company.
Allow enough time to fully absorb your new environment, meet everyone and invite feedback and open discussions to get a good understanding of how things are done. It’s important to listen to the different perspectives of staff and to focus on building rapport and trust before you make any big decisions.
To manage everyone’s expectations, communicate the fact that you are in receiver mode and intentionally getting to know the company inside and out before making any changes.
Get to know each of your team members and encourage them to get to know one another better. Resist the tendency to immediately start talking about work, tasks and outcomes, and instead focus the conversation on building rapport and connection.
This could entail holding a teambuilding away day early on in your new role, or simply beginning weekly meetings with a team building exercise or ice breaker questions.
A good exercise that sounds confrontational, but managed well can be really insightful, is to invite team members to recall their best and worst team experiences. Discussing the good and bad dynamics will help gain insight into what behaviours and interactions work well and what should be avoided in the future.
Use meetings and interactions with your new team as an opportunity to talk about your values and priorities. Explain your intentions, how you plan on evaluating performance and what your expectations of the team and individuals are. Be as transparent as possible with all of this and create a positive momentum for yourself in the new position.
It’s also important to provide a detailed explanation of how you want your team to work together. Even if you are entering a team that is operating effectively as it is, it is essential to set the expectations and explain processes so that everyone is clear and individuals don’t feel excluded, unclear or unwilling to contribute.
Set goals together with your team that are achievable yet ambitious so you are allowing your team to work together and strive towards goals. This provides a good basis for making team members accountable for their work. Starting a new role as a leader of an existing team means you have the opportunity to not only creating new goals, but ensuring you clarify existing ones.
Over Communicating is always better than under-communicating. Whether its via email, meetings, team meetings, one to ones, phone calls; the more communication and follow up the better, particularly in the early days of a new leadership role.
Lastly, whilst it is great to take it slow and take time to fully understand your new team before you make any big changes and impact, if you see an opportunity for quick win. Take it. It might be a small gripe that employees tell you about that can easily be solved. This gives you some brownie points, makes your team feel heard, and get’s things moving in the right direction quickly.
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