8 Things To Avoid When Leading A New Team

Most managers lead a team they haven’t built at some point in their careers. Maybe you just joined a new organization and are replacing a previous leader. Perhaps you were just promoted and given the responsibility to lead a team you were previously part of. Maybe you are stepping in to fix a dysfunctional organization. Whatever the circumstances, you are uniquely positioned to do some good. But you need to start on the right foot, and there are pitfalls and no-nos you need to avoid.

1. Don’t criticize the previous boss

Pointing out all the previous leadership’s mistakes might be tempting, but what’s the point? There is nothing you can gain from it. You can only lose. You can lose the respect of the team and be seen as petty, boasting, or vengeful. If you need to change something, don’t criticize the previous practice but explain the advantages of the new one.

2. Don’t keep the wrong people for too long

You are the new boss, and you have a unique opportunity to make changes in the personnel that the previous leadership wouldn’t make. There might be some people on the team who don’t fit, don’t have the skills, don’t have the right attitude, or are actively sabotaging your efforts.

This applies especially to toxic people. If you identify someone who is destructive, you need to address it immediately. Have a heart-to-heart chat, and if that doesn’t help, you need to manage the person out of the team before they cause more damage. Don’t let this fester. Stop it as soon as you recognize it is going on.

If you are constrained in your ability to make changes to the team, then figure out how to get the best from the people you have. It might be a question of motivation, training, role description, or finding their ideal spot in the organization. You should come out of your transition at full speed with a team that is on board and aligned with your mission.

A word of caution. Always treat everyone with respect. Even if everyone in the organization recognizes that a particular person is a toxic underperformer, you still treat them with respect and let them go with dignity. It is simply the right thing to do. Not to mention that anything less would reflect poorly on you. You need to be seen as fair and caring even when making tough decisions.

3. Don’t let the best people leave

Change can be very unsettling. If you are not careful, the organization can become anxious and unstable. Who will be the first to leave? Those who have no problem finding jobs elsewhere. It is often some of the best people who go first. Especially if they don’t have much history with the organization and no strong attachment or loyalty. If there are apparent strong performers, then make it a point to signal early on that they are valued and needed for the future you are bringing.

4. Don’t spend too much time on team-building activities

This may sound counterintuitive at first. Make sure you have the right team together before you get more serious about strengthening their bonds. Explicit team building is a great way to bond, but you don’t want to bond those who are unsure whether to stay to those who are sure they want to leave. It could destabilize your team even more. Build relationships with as many people on the team as possible but leave the team-building efforts for when you know you have the right team.

5. Don’t forget that you lead humans

There is so much to do on the business side of things that many leaders often forget to socialize and build more personal connections with the teams they lead. You want to get the loyalty of your team, and that is not going to happen if they feel you don’t care about them as human beings.

6. Don’t rush in too fast

You want your early wins, but you also want to make sure people are on board with them. Having all the decisions done quickly and unilaterally will get you moving fast, but it will alienate people you may need to implement the plan. Unless there is a real urgency, involve people in decision-making to get their buy-in. It is a juggling of fast execution versus effective execution.

7. Don’t start a reporting craziness

Whenever you request a document, specification, policy, or report, consider whether and how often you truly need it. People spend way too much time preparing reports that no one reads. Years ago, a friend of mine ran an experiment. She prepared a weekly recruitment report with numbers tracking recruitment metrics like the number of new candidates, hires, and others. For several weeks she decided to put there just zeros. The report went to more than ten people, and yet, no one ever asked a single question or raised concerns that recruitment is processing no candidates. So she just stopped sending the report. Again, no one noticed.

8. Don’t try to do everything on your own

You are joining an organization. It probably has some senior leaders, human resources, legal, and finance departments, which means many people can help out. Build relationships with the key people in the organization from all the departments and involve them in your diagnosis of the team and then in any actions you may want to take. You will avoid a lot of potential headaches down the road.

To wrap it up

Stepping in to lead a new team can be overwhelming. You will be tempted to rely on your past experience but be aware that this is a new team, new organization, and new circumstances, and what worked in the past may not work now.

Be humble and open-minded, and try to understand the organization and the people before you start making changes. People rarely do something without reason, so before you criticize something, make sure you understand the reason why it is happening. By listening first and being respectful to your new team and their way of working, you will earn their respect in return.

What is your take on the topic? What are the critical things every manager needs to do when joining a new company? Is it better to move fast and start making decisions and changes or move slower and listen before acting? How important are first small wins for establishing credibility?

Photo: geralt / Pixabay.com

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Categories: Leadership

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