As someone who has been a people leader for about 10 years and has worked in IT and security for over 20, I’ve had the privilege of leading diverse teams across different industries – from small startups to Fortune 50 companies and state institutions. Through these varied experiences, I have learnt that taking on an existing team can be a nuanced process, one that demands adaptability, empathy, and keen communication skills.
When you’re assigned to lead a new team, one of your first tasks is to build rapport and establish trust. This doesn’t happen overnight. It involves an investment of time, active listening, and genuine interest in understanding each team member. With this in mind, I’d like to share five questions that I’ve found helpful to kickstart this process:
- “What motivates you in your work?” This question allows you to understand what drives your team members professionally. It could be learning new skills, solving complex problems, or contributing to team success. Knowing this can help you align their tasks with their individual motivators.
- “What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?” Understanding the parts of their work they are passionate about will not only give you insight into their job satisfaction but also provide clues on how to keep them engaged and productive.
- “How do you prefer to receive feedback?” Every individual has a unique style when it comes to feedback. Knowing their preference can help you establish an effective communication channel that resonates with each team member.
- “What are your career aspirations?” Knowing where they see themselves in the future can help you align their tasks with their career goals and guide them on their growth path within the organization.
- “How do you like to be recognized for your achievements?” Recognition is a vital aspect of motivation. However, the way people like to be recognized can vary greatly. Some may appreciate public acknowledgment, while others might prefer private recognition. Knowing their preference can help you make them feel appreciated and valued in a way that resonates with them.
While these questions are a good starting point, there are other vital steps you should take when inheriting an existing team. Here are a few additional recommendations:
- Set up Regular 1:1s: Private, uninterrupted time with each team member is crucial to developing a strong rapport. These meetings provide a platform for two-way feedback and a deeper understanding of each individual’s professional journey.
- Introduce them to Your Existing Team: It’s essential to foster a sense of community within your team. Arrange a casual meeting or team-building activity where your new and existing team members can get to know each other. This will cultivate a more inclusive and welcoming environment.
- Communicate Your Leadership Style: Clearly communicate your expectations, your style of leadership, and how you envision the team working together. Encourage open dialogue about their thoughts and feelings to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Remember, taking over an existing team is not a sprint, but a marathon. It requires patience, understanding, and a whole lot of active listening. However, by starting on the right note, you can create a collaborative and harmonious working environment that brings out the best in everyone.
And finally, remember to enjoy the journey. Leadership, in the end, is about growth – for both you and your team. Be open to learning from them just as they will learn from you. Together, you can achieve great things.