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New Leader Assimilation Sets Teams Up for Success
There is always uncertainty when a new leader joins a pre-existing team. Both the leader and his or her new team members want to make a strong first impression, set expectations for each other, develop a routine for how they’ll work together, and so on. The new leader assimilation agenda should include time dedicated to the team's needs and the new leader's needs.
The most important goal is to accelerate the getting-to-know-each-other process so the team can move toward quicker results and deeper engagement. If this process of new leader assimilation isn’t handled well it has the potential to set the team back.
Unique complications are added when:
- The new leader comes from outside the organization and is not only learning about and assessing his or her team(s) but is also learning the dynamics of being a new boss themselves and how to navigate in the new organizational culture.
- The new leader is promoted from within the team and while steep in the roles and responsibilities that exist today they are moving from co-worker to boss and analyzing how to set a new shared vision for the team.
No matter how complicated the transition is, a facilitated process with a neutral coach can set the stage and increase the chances of early team success.
From our experience in running these types of assimilation processes, here are five focus areas that can help a leader make an early impact:
Step one: Get to know the team
Building relationships as a new boss can be challenging, but the first step is getting to know team members on a personal level. This sets the stage for interactions with your team as a whole, in addition to building personal relationships.
- What are the team’s preferences?
- How do team members interact?
- What does collaboration look like for this team?
- What does the team value?
Step two: Learn the team’s history
The team that exists today may have been built for a different purpose or with different original team members. Understanding how and why the team was established, what the current state of the relationships are, and how the team has adapted will allow new leaders to realistically determine the team’s path forward.
- How long have team members been working with one another?
- Do team members work together well?
- Are there any areas of dysfunction or potential problems?
- What is the team’s engagement level?
Step three: Establish mutual expectations
This is one of the most crucial steps to effective teamwork, allowing the team to avoid potential problems or conflicts due to lack of clarity. As a new leader, you and your team must define what you expect of each other, clarify what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and understand each person’s roles.
- What are key performance expectations for each role?
- What metrics are we expected to perform on?
- Do we have any skill or knowledge gaps?
- How will we address these gaps?
Step four: Create agreements for working together
The team’s commitment to accountability allows each member to feel a sense of contribution toward the overall teams’ goals. New leaders who create a “commitment contract” for working together ensure clarity and common language for new standards.
- How do team members hold each other accountable?
- What is the team’s primary goal?
- How will we align work habits to achieve high performance?
- What issues, if any, need to be addressed?
Step Five: Set a game plan to hit the ground running
Planning action as a team is the crucial final step. The team must define priorities and next steps to truly hit the ground running and begin their first tasks together.
- What will the team accomplish in the first 90 days?
- How will each team member participate in the overall plan?
With early focus on these five areas, your new leaders can forge a high-performing team without missing a beat.
Have questions or think your team needs a little extra guidance? Reach out to us and find out more about our new leader assimilation program.