Five recommendations to consider when you take over a team

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Quite often because of internal promotion or changes in structure or when joining a new company leaders do not have a choice about which teams they lead or the make-up of their team.  This can be both exciting and challenging, however the fact remains the team you are now leading has been led for some time by someone else.

The team has developed an operating and behavioural style which may or may not align with your leadership views and requirements.    Correspondingly the team’s view of your leadership and management approach may not align with their expectations.  Nevertheless you and the team have to make the transition.

Let’s assume that the team you are now leading is a high performing team and not a dysfunctional team, here are five recommendations that will assist everyone involved make the adjustments faster and easier.

  • Understand the team will harbour disappointment at the loss of their leader.  The key is don’t be dismissive, instead invest time to understand the qualities the team believe made their previous leader highly effective.  Do not try emulating the previous leader’s style, rather develop your own.  Eventually you will have to encourage the team to move on.  One way is, at an appropriate time, call the team together and have them complete two  exercises:
    • Create a ‘Wall of Pride’ where the team capture all achievements they are proud of that were completed under the previous leader.  Leave it on the wall as a reminder for them.\
    • Working with them, have the team create a vivid picture of where they want this team to be a year into the future.
  • No Team is perfect, curb your frustration.  While you’ll try to take a balanced view of the team’s knowledge, skills and experience, be aware that you will probably lean towards their shortcomings while the team members will focus on what they are good at. Showing frustration will only create resistance.  Instead, even if your expectations are different you are accountable for helping them make the shift.
  • Invest time to have the team members evaluate the team based on these five high performance criteria.  Have the team rate:
    • The clarity of the team’s Mission.
    • Clarity of their individual roles in the team
    • Effectiveness of team systems and processes
    • Quality of relationships between team members
    • Quality of relationships with people in other teams

Depending on the findings this will provide you with the opportunity to fine-tune all of the above.

  • Let trust between you emerge – don’t force the pace.  Help the team build trust in you by sharing with team members how they can get the best out of you.  As an example you may dislike email as a communication medium and instead you prefer face-to-face.  Set clear guidelines for communication between you and each member.
    As trust builds work with the team to reset the guiding principles by which the team will work together. Set the standards by which you work together as a team to deliver the team’s new mission.  Now you have a clear baseline from which to work.

Building a new team is more often than not easier than taking over an existing one.   Be patient, communication is the key at both the individual level and the team level.  With communication comes trust and with trust comes a new mandate for the team.


Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.

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