Approaching Established Teams: Hero, Savior or a Thorn in Their Side

Currently, many leaders in the public sector find themselves with a boss they didn’t sign up to work for. What is to be made of this experience?

We definitely have new leaders in our organisations. The likelihood of fresh approaches, innovation and not doing the same old things in the same old way, is high. However, with each new appointment, comes an entry into an established leadership team. A team usually appointed by your predecessor. This has its own challenges.

What are the things to be alert to as you approach a new team? 

Firstly, change is already underway. The context of the vacancy and a new leader being appointed is crucial.

What is the CE’s brief – To provide stability, turn an organisation around, strengthen stakeholder relationships, or restructure the organisation for stronger and better service delivery? Immediately we see that the context the original executives were appointed within has changed from their original brief.

Many leaders accept a role in a leadership team with three criteria in mind: the context, the purpose of the organisation and who the boss is. Two of these have changed: the boss and the context.

A new leader in a leadership team tosses up at least two dilemmas for those involved:

  1. If you are the boss, you are inheriting a team and yet they haven’t been chosen by you, nor have they chosen you. Most bosses are going to want to have a leadership team of people they can trust, people who understand the business and who can deliver results with their leadership.
  2. If you are a member of a leadership team, you are likely to want a boss you can influence, who seeks your counsel and provides direction yet leaves you free to lead in your area.

How well leaders and leadership team members connect and develop relationships with one another greatly influences the results of the business and the emotional quality amongst all staff within the organisation.

How might you as the boss develop a working relationship with your new team? What can be done? What works for you as the boss?

One suggestion is to meet each team member prior to any team meeting. Some leaders initiate this with their boss. This meeting is important because of the first impressions and the connections you make. How easy is the connection between you? What do you let your team members know about you? How open are you in letting your team know what is important in your life, and discovering what is important in theirs? Where they are headed and how do they like to work? How will you discuss the context of the boss entering the team or organisation, from both your perspectives? Landing these conversations set the scene for your work together.

Easing your entry into the group enables everyone there to contribute their best with these skills:

1. Learn to develop relationships quickly

2. Share your vision and expectations early on with clear simple messages

3. Choose trusted advisors so you can tune into how people are responding to you and the direction you are taking

Any new leader entering an established group or organisation creates significant shifts in the relationships and collegial alliances.

If you as the new leader, and your team, don’t attend to enabling new connections amongst people throughout the organisation, the likelihood of being the thorn in people’s side, and theirs in yours, increases.

Here are some simple conversations that are likely to create mutual connections between people through shared experiences:

leadership connections
  • Where you have come from
  • How long you have been in the organisation?
  • What is your role?
  • Your vision for the group and organisation
  • How you like to work with others
  • How will the new direction affect you?

Here is a silver bullet:

Ensure you create an environment that enables people in your team and throughout the organisation to easily connect with one another around the new direction; to have conversations on how their work is impacted; how they are responding to deliver in the new context; and what they want from you and the leadership team in the organisation to assist them.

If you want to hear more, come and talk with me.

© Diana Jones

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