Inheriting a team? Start here!
Learn how to make a seamless transition, build strong relationships, and lead with impact when you inherit a team.
In a recent post about transitioning into a manager role, I shared that the #1 activity to prioritize when you first take on this job is getting to know your team and this is especially try when you inherit a team.
As a manager, your job is now less about doing the work yourself and more about prioritizing, strategizing, delegating and delivering results through others. I can pretty much guarantee that at some point in your management career you will have the opportunity to take over a team. This is what some people call “inherit vs. build” – meaning you inherit an intact team that already exists within the business whereas "building a team" means you are given open headcount and personally (or with help!) select people to create a new team. There is no ‘better way’ but definitely some considerations to keep in mind!
Let's get started
Today we are going to dive into your approach if you are inheriting a team as a new manager. If you are moving within the same organization, you likely have a varying degree of familiarity with the work and you might have had the opportunity to say hello or even partner with your new direct reports. Use this familiarity as a jumping off point to build an engagement plan with your team. Here are a few things to try:
Recognize recent work
People tend to have a lot of pride in the work they create and deliver on behalf of the company. Consider making your first impression by recognizing recent work that was done across the team. For example, this could look like “I saw last month the sales for this group increased by 25% - that is really impressive given our current economic environment. I would love to learn more about what this team did to make that happen”.
Find mutual connections
Finding common ground is a great way to build relationships and expand your network of who knows who. It can also help when assigning work that requires support from other internal teams since you can leverage joint networks. Consider saying “I added you on LinkedIn and noticed that you used to work in the IT Security a few years ago. I happen to have worked with the Head of IT Security on a project last year, do you happen to know Molly as well?”
Let go of assumptions
Reputations follow people around and this can be for a good reason (sometimes!). But, everyone comes with their own biases, so solely relying on the of input of others can be a big trap. Instead, give each person on your team the opportunity to come to the table in their own way. Try saying, "What do you think is most important for me to know abotu you and the way you work?"
Please, please, please recognize that even though you are now the manager of this team, that you are far from the expert in the work that goes on! Your team has a culture itself – their own ways of communicating, history of how work was assigned, expectations around feedback, standards of communicating with customers and many times employees can be worried a new manager will come in a steamroll everything. Instead, try asking where you need to go deeper, where your team needs support or what barriers they face that may prevent them from executing their work. There will be lots of time for improvement in the future, so ask these questions first – your team will appreciate it.
Be open to feedback
Think about your 'intent vs. impact' and how your words/actions may come across entirely differently than intended and that changes the impact you can have. For example, if your team is waiting for specific direction on strategy or how to deliver on a project, but then feels left out of the decision making process when you independently provide guidance, then this is a great example of a mismatch. Be open to direct and indirect feedback from your team and your peers to check in on how the transition is going and adjust your approach as needed.
Align on goals
When an employee goes through a manager change, one of the most frequent concerns is around continuing their own personal development through the transition. When you inherit a team, this puts you in a unique position because each member of your team will be at a different stage in their development - Jill was recently promoted, Sanjay just returned from a leave of absence and Alex is looking built out their tech skillset. I would encourage you to have a conversation upfront with each person to understand career goals and then follow up a few months later once you understand their performance and align or adjust these goals.
In the ever-evolving journey of leadership, embracing the art of team inheritance is your gateway to building powerful connections and fostering a culture of success. As a manager, your role is not just about steering the ship but also about recognizing the individual strengths and nuances within your team. By embracing their recent achievements, forging common ground, letting go of preconceptions, delving deeper, and remaining receptive to feedback, you're on the path to creating a thriving, collaborative environment. As you align with each team member's unique career aspirations, you pave the way for unparalleled growth and accomplishment, forging a leadership style that ensures both your success and that of your team. So, let the journey begin and lead your inherited team to new heights!
What if you have the opportunity to build your own team? Look out for a future post on how to build a strong team from the ground up!
As always, if you are looking for support through a challenging talent situation at work and want a fresh perspective or someone to talk to, reach out! I would LOVE to chat! Connect with me here, shoot me a DM on Instagram or check me out on LinkedIn!