Getting a New Leader on Board Part I

September 5, 2019 8:37 pm

Change is the one constant we can depend on. Unfortunately, this means that even good situations – such as having a team leader who’s effective and respected – won’t last forever. In some industries such as information technology, it’s not unusual for project teams to experience some kind of restructuring every 2-3 months. Team mandates, decision-making capacity, and leadership are all subject to change, regardless of team performance. Nonetheless, new team leaders can harm morale and drag down a high performing team if the new leader isn’t integrated properly. Taking the time upfront to establish rapport and understanding on both sides can help maintain team effectiveness and remedy potential conflicts before misunderstandings arise.

One method to expedite understanding is through purposeful integration of a new leader within their new team. This process involves educating the new team leader on their needs and, ensuring the team is willing to listen and respond to the new leader’s needs.

I recently facilitated this process with an HR group whose leader was being replaced. The original leader was leaving a legacy of dysfunctional management marked by micromanaging, confrontational behavior and poor productivity. Upper management realized that some kind of venting session would be required with the team and the new leader so that the problems of the past would not be recreated. The difficulty rested in designing a session that would clear the air for team members but not turn off the new team leader.

New Leader Integration Meeting Process
This process, Needs and Offers (adapted from ‘Facilitating with Ease!’ by Ingrid Bens) occurs in three stages, with the last stage requiring facilitation by an internal or external facilitator. This will ensure that someone is available to manage the structure of the meeting and deal with any resistances or emotions that may potentially hinder the success of the final stage and the integration process itself.

Stage 1: The Team Defines Its Needs and Offers
During this stage the team strives to clarify its mandate and profile without the new leader being present. This profile will be given to the new leader in advance of a joint session (Stage 3). If the departing team leader is well-liked and respected, I would encourage you to have them present at this meeting to define details that are important from a team leader perspective. The notes resulting from this discussion should be recorded and typed for distribution to all members. Parameters discussed should always include ‘what we need’ and ‘what we’re willing to offer.’

Suggested questions include, but are not limited to:
• Who are we? (Our purpose, products/services, staff/skills)
• What are we most proud of?
• What are we currently doing very well and why is this happening?
• What aren’t we doing that well at? Why not?
• What are we doing to improve?
• What critical work lies ahead for us in the next six months, one year?
• Under what leadership style do we work best? Why?
• How empowered have we been/should we be to make decisions? For which activities?
• Based on the above, what do we need from our new leader to continue fulfilling our mandate?
• What are we offering our new leader so that they will feel part of this team?

Stage 2: The Team Leader Defines Their Needs and Offers
Having received the group’s profile, the new leader is asked to prepare a profile along the same lines. The leader is asked to be ready to discuss what is needed from the group and what they’re prepared to offer.

Suggested questions include, but are not limited to:
• Who are you? (The skillset you bring to the table)
• What are you most proud of in terms of past work achievements? Non-work related?
• What critical work do you believe the team needs to focus on in the next six months, one year?
• What’s your leadership style? Why?
• How empowered do you believe the team should be to make decisions? For which activities?
• Based on the above, what do we need from the team to fulfill your mandate?
• What are you offering the team so that they feel supported?

Once the team and the new leader have completed their profiles, they’re ready to meet up and present their needs and offers. Stay tuned for our next post where we outline Stage 3 of this process: the team and team leader meet to share and ratify needs and offers.

Michael Goldman

President, Facilitation First

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