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What Leaders Need to Know When Taking Over a New Team

If you're in a leadership position, one of the things you might be tasked with is taking over an existing team.

This can be challenging for leaders because they have to deal with the existing workflow of the team but also bring in their own style of leadership.

In this article, I'll go through some important things that leaders should know if they're taking over a new team.

Start with a “Welcome” Meeting

When you first meet with your new team, make sure to give them a clear sense of who you are as a leader, what role they play in the organization, and how they can best contribute to its success.

This is your first opportunity to connect and build trust.

Share some of your personal values and how they align with the organization's mission.

Explain what it means to be a good manager and leader, including what you expect from them as well as how much support they'll receive from you.

The more clearly you communicate these things, the more quickly your team will get on the same page.

Be open to any questions they might have about how things will work moving forward with you.

Set Expectations for Performance and Collaboration

Spend most of your first few weeks in discovery mode and take notes

Learn as much as possible about your new team.

The more information you have, the better equipped you will be when making decisions and setting priorities.

If you have a project manager or team lead to help you out, make sure they're included in these meetings as well.

They will be able to give you valuable insight into the team's needs and goals.

Here's what you'll need to cover:

  • What are the top priorities?

  • What are the key metrics you should be watching?

  • What is their culture like?

  • What are the biggest challenges they're facing?

  • How does the team work together?

  • How are they currently organized?

  • What is each of their skill sets?

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

  • What do they need from YOU?

These are all important questions that will help you better understand the team and how to best support them. Make sure to take notes during these meetings.

Take note of what was working well in the old culture, and make sure it stays intact as much as possible during this transition period.

Build relationships quickly

You might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all the things you need to do and all the new people you need to get to know.

But this is a crucial step in building trust and collaboration with your team, and it can be as simple as asking them about their weekend or inviting them out to lunch.

Look for opportunities to connect with your new team members as people.

Jumping into problems too quickly is another common trap leaders fall into when they take over a new team

Because it's so easy to do.

You're the new person, you have so many ideas of how to solve problems and make things better, and you want to dive right in and start implementing.

You want to show your team that you mean business and you're ready to get things done.

But this is not the right approach.

So we're back to this list.

Figure this out before diving into the details of any problem areas they may have.

When in doubt, over-communicate

Be flexible with processes and procedures

A lot of times, new leaders will come in and try to change everything because they're like, "This isn't how I do things!"

But again, this is not the right approach.

Your job is to make the process better, not to tear it down and start from scratch.

You have to respect the way things have been done in the past and understand why they're being done that way in order to make any changes.

Don’t be stuck to your old ways of doing things; be open to change.

Trust, but verify

I've always been a fan of the phrase "Trust, but verify."

It's a great way to approach life, business, and relationships: if you're going to trust someone, you need to make sure they're trustworthy. And if they are? Well then… You can trust them. It's a beautiful thing!

I know this sounds like standard advice, but it's actually pretty rare in practice. When I take over a new team, I always like to remind people that we should be verifying our trust--before we build any further on it.

Focus on the team

Don’t get in your own way.

Your success only matters when it aligns with the goals of your team.

So focus on what success looks like for the team and take them there.

Remember that you're there to help the team succeed, not to be in charge.

Seek feedback

It can be really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your previous experiences are going to work for every new team.

You might think that a strategy that worked for your old team, will work for this one too.

But here's the thing: each group is unique and has its own needs and challenges.

And you won't know what those are until you start asking questions, listening, and observing closely.

So don't just assume.

I highly recommend seeking feedback from your new team right away—not just about how they feel about the change but also about their specific needs and concerns as they relate to your approach, style, and leadership capabilities.

Listen carefully and take action.

Taking over a new team can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be

By building rapport with your colleagues, asking questions, and listening carefully, you can make sure that everyone feels included and supported as you work towards your shared goals.

In the end, what matters most is to be able to work together effectively.

If you do that, then everyone wins!


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