Taking over a team, what should you do?

As team leaders, chances of us taking over a team rather than creating a new one are higher. When taking over a new team, I have found very useful to go through several steps to find out some information before moving forward.

As a baseline, I first want to state what is important for me at this stage, so the next steps make more sense to you. I believe that some characteristics must be present in a team to make teamwork possible, and one of the most crucial one for me is communication. If there is no open and clear communication, then you are opening the doors to all sorts of problems, starting with misunderstandings to not delivering any work. So let’s go through my observation points:

Communication

This is the most important one for me and the key to all the successes or failures in the team. It is of vital importance to understand and define the communication means the team feels most comfortable with. Some do prefer verbal communication (this is also my preference when the team is on site) and some do like more written communication, especially when part of the team is remote. From experience, a mix of both, a hybrid communication works pretty well. It maintains the human touch as well as leaves chance for missing or remote people to stay informed as well.

Team dynamics

I believe every team has an individual spirit. That is not individuals, but the group acting together. It is like a one way hash of the team. It is like that as if you remove one person from the team, or if you ad one, the team spirit is different, so the hash changes. The team dynamics tell you how well the currents in the team flow. How well do the team members communicate and get along with their teammates? Who dominates, who leads, and who is the strong influencer? Who is more silent and needs help to get heard and who maintains the balance of the team? Finding answers to these questions will help you determine where and how should your focus be directed to try to get the team to an optimal performance level,

Individuals in the team

Although the team spirit is super important, individuals in the team are as important as the former. Every team member has their unique personality, therefore, their influence on the team is individually different. Ignoring one team member may result in breaking the whole team dynamics. One needs to continuously foster and maintain the individual relationship with every team member. One thing that helps this a lot is having 1 on 1 meetings regularly to check how they feel about the team, is there anything that can be improved or changed that can contribute to having a better engagement or more interesting experience.

Strengths and weaknesses of team members

To take the team to an optimal performance level, I find it of utmost importance to fine-tune or calibrate the way individuals contribute to the team. Every individual has strengths and weaknesses. The importance is to engage them on things they are best at while allowing their teammates to cover on their weaknesses. This contributes to people feel better as they perform best when they do the things they feel most strong at. One might argue that we should push our teammates to improve on their weaknesses, and yes, I agree, but remember, the focus of this post is on improving team performance, there will be another post on helping individuals thrive 😉

Conclusion

When you take over a team which is already established, it is not an easy task to find out how to behave best so you improve the team performance and do not decrease it. My usual approach in these cases is to take my time, usually for a sprint, and do nothing except observe these characteristics. After I create the picture in my head, then I start approaching individuals to find out more about them and complete the picture. It is this time when I create a list of things that need to improve and start acting on improving what needs to be improved and reach a fluent delivery cycle.

Do you have a different experience or opinion? I’d like to hear about it. Please share it with us.

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