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From Peer to Boss: 3 Steps to a Successful Transition

Step 2: Develop the Team You’ve Inherited​

Ever inherited something, anything, maybe an old car, or a home that belonged to a loved one? Was it exactly what you would have wanted it to be? More than likely not. Usually, an inheritance requires that you do some work to bring the item back to a good place again. Inheriting a team is not quite the same as an inherited possession, but similar in that it’s not the hand-picked team of your choice, and quite possibly it isn’t what or where it needs to be.

It’s rare to get the team you want. You probably have limited familiarity with your new team, and you aren’t able to swap out existing staff for new people. What are your options, because you can’t just rebuild the team from scratch, or heaven forbid, stop the mission to repair the problems your team may be experiencing. Here are three tips to start you down the path of developing a high performing team when you don’t have the luxury of choosing your own staff.

  1. Of course, the first thing you want to do is build relationships with your team members (see last week’s blog “Getting to Know Your New Team”).  Once you’ve begun to get to know your team, begin assessing them, their roles, skills, and abilities.  Look at the group dynamics to help you form a clear picture of the current state of things. 
    1. Know what qualities your team members will need to tackle the challenges they’ll face. 
    2. Observe the work of individuals, ask questions about their assignments and projects.  Speak with those they interact with, who are dependent on what they’re working on.  You may find that some are actually better suited to another role. 
    3. Identify the gaps between the talents and skills your team has and what may be needed going forward.  
  2. Reshape the team, their sense of purpose and direction, behaviors, and the operational model that’s been followed to date, according to what’s needed today to meet the business challenges.  The first choice would be to replace those who are underperforming or whose capabilities aren’t a good match.  But you can’t do this right away usually.  You’ll have to work with what you’ve inherited.  So, what can you do? 
    1. Based on your recent assessments, you’ll have some idea of who has what talents, and skills, and where they might be best utilized.
    2. Groom the high performers to take on new responsibilities if time is available.
    3. Alter the roles of the individual team members to better watch their capabilities, swapping jobs, creating new positions.
    4. Look for positions in other departments that might suit people who are valuable, but not necessarily a good match for your team.
    5. Let them know you expect higher performance from them.  Those not able to fit the bill may look elsewhere for new roles.
  3. Share the goals and expectations of the division or unit with your staff.  And be sure to define what success looks like. 
    1. Share detailed information with your team about current operations across the organization.
    2. Be transparent about the challenges the organization faces as well as the direction it’s taking.
    3. Make sure everyone’s on the same page and has a clear sense of the department/division’s purpose and direction:  What we will accomplish; Why should we do it; How will we do it; Who will do what?
    4. Invite their questions, thinking and suggestions on these issues.

Believe it or not, these tactics can really help revitalize people.  Harnessing your team members individual strengths, interests, and passions is the start to adding value to the organization.

What have you found to be your biggest challenge in developing a new team?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Join us next week for part 3 of the Peer to Boss series, where we’ll look at “Your First Team Meeting”.

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