You’ve found yourself in charge of a team of people — perhaps you’ve been promoted or transferred within your current company, or you have joined a new organisation with a team ready to go. Either way, Congratulations! As exciting as this new opportunity is though, it can present some unique challenges and opportunities.
Inheriting a team that you didn't hire can be both exhilarating and daunting. It's a chance to showcase your leadership ability, but it also comes with the responsibility of navigating existing team dynamics and forging new connections.
Wondering how to handle it? I’ve got YOU covered!
In this blog post, we'll share with you six valuable pieces of advice and guidance that will help you effectively navigate the journey of leading a team you didn't hire.
1. Observe and Listen
Before you start shaking things up, why not put on your observer hat? Take the time to watch, learn, and listen. Get the lay of the land, understand the relationship dynamics, the way people work together (or don’t!), any micro tensions. Ultimately take the time to really understand what is what, before you go in and start telling people what you think they need to do. See how your team operates, who's the office dynamo, and where might things often need more of a nudge. Listening and observing first will go a long way to building your credibility as a new leader.
2. Connect and Build Relationships
Time to work that charisma! Reach out to your team members and make a genuine effort to get to know them as humans first and foremost. Building strong connections will lay the foundation for open conversations and show that you're in this together. Demonstrating genuine interest in your team members will establish a foundation of camaraderie and make them more receptive to your leadership. Prioritising these relationships early on in the piece will enable you to then dive deeper into what the real challenges are because you’ll have a basis of trust and understanding to build from.
3. Be Vulnerable Yourself - You Set the Tone
Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness; it's a display of authenticity and transparency. By sharing your own challenges and experiences, you set the tone for the rest of the team on how much they will or will not open up and trust you. This not only strengthens the bonds within the team, but also sets a positive tone for open communication. Remember, your vulnerability paves the way for a culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
4. Understand the Team's Dynamics and Preferences
After taking the time to really observe, listen, and connect with everyone, it's now a great opportunity to understand what makes your team tick – their strengths, areas for growth, what motivates them, and how they like to work. If you've managed to build that trust and camaraderie, you can kick off conversations by sharing your insights about what you have observed as their strengths thus far.
And remember, these chats are all about being real and open. They not only help each person shine, but also make it easier to talk about the stuff they aren’t as great at yet. Sharing your observations on their strengths, and getting some insights into whether those are the tasks or projects that they also enjoy being involved in, will then give you a platform to talk to their motivations and perhaps any gaps they might want to (or need to) focus on also.
5. Co-create the Team Culture Together
It's important to acknowledge that when you step into a team that has already been in existence, there is already a culture in place that has likely been established over time. Rather than assuming you can come in and dictate what the culture WILL be, the opportunity lies in understanding and enhancing the existing one. By blending the positive aspects of what's already working well, working with the team to remove what isn’t, and then adding your own unique touch to the mix, this will be the best way to ensure the evolved culture is adopted and embraced in a way that is sustainable.
How do you do this? Have those open conversations with the team about what's effective, what's not, and their ideas for how things could improve. It's about collectively defining the behaviours that are valued, how team members should treat each other, and even recognising when those behaviours aren't being upheld. This collaborative effort is what truly nurtures the culture you want to build and uphold together for the long game.
6. Lastly, Introduce Your Cadence and Rhythm
While embracing existing team dynamics is essential, introducing your cadence and rhythm will also help to shape you and your team's ability to communicate effectively and deliver on your commitments. However, where leaders often go wrong, is that they come in and push the rhythm, the processes and cadence of operation first, without understanding how things are, or getting to know their new team. People over processes. This step is the last one intentionally. If you have done all of the above, you will now be in a great position to roll out your preferred method of operating in terms of WIPs, 1:1s, status updates ets. Strive for a balance between respecting the existing team practices and infusing your unique approach to foster growth and innovation.
Inheriting a team that you didn't hire may seem like a complex challenge, but with the right strategies, it can become an incredible opportunity for growth and transformation. By observing, connecting, being vulnerable, understanding the team dynamics, co-creating culture, and then introducing your rhythm, you'll not only enhance team performance, but leave a positive mark as a leader who knows how to really bring a team together and achieve business outcomes.
Are you ready? Let me know how you go.
P.s How do you set the future leaders in your organisation up for success? If you haven’t got a plan for this, reach out to me and let’s chat. I help organisations keep their top talent, and I support individuals to BE the top talent.